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How Much Do Olympians Get Paid to Compete? It’s Complicated — Here’s What We Know

Here are the surprising facts about if and how Olympic athletes are compensated for their efforts at the Summer and Winter Games.

By Chris Phelan

If you're anything like us, you've found yourself curiously Googling an endless array of Olympics-related questions in the past few months in preparation for the 2024 Summer Games. While many aspects of the Olympics are well-known, information about the financial elements — especially regarding the athletes themselves — isn't as prevalent. 

If you've been searching for answers to questions like How much is a gold medal worth? Do Olympic athletes get paid? Do they really compete for free? — today's your lucky day.

Here are answers to all your burning money-related questions about Olympic athletes as the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France draw near.

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Are Olympic athletes paid?

In a traditional sense, no. Olympic athletes are not paid. However, they have the opportunity to earn money in other ways that can make their respective Olympic careers extremely lucrative (as we'll explain later).

The International Olympic Committee embraces values-based ethics and has never sought to incorporate a for-profit business model. In a statement provided to NBC Insider, the IOC threw a hypothetical our way.

"Imagine if the IOC were to organize the Olympic Games on a for-profit business model," they explained. "The event would be limited to those sports that generate the most significant revenues, and it would not involve athletes representing teams from 206 NOCs. It would not be Olympic Games as we know them. Yet, it is precisely the tremendous range of sports and the global provenance of the athletes that distinguish the Olympic Games from other events and make them so successful. The Olympic Games are the only event that brings the entire world together in peaceful competition."

Michael Phelps celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

It makes sense; profiteering off the countless athletes that compete in the Olympic Games would be a disservice to the spirit of competition that has endured for generations.

But don't worry, Olympians are compensated directly from their country's respective Olympic competition committee. According to a 2021 report by the CNBC, Singapore famously awards any gold-medal-winning athlete a cool $737,000, while United States competitors can take home over $37,000 for each first-place finish. Not bad, right?

In addition, U.S. Olympians traditionally enjoy perks such as tax relief, tuition grants and education funding, premiere health care plans, and other benefits. Notably, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) also offers resources for those seeking to expand their brand and explore marketing opportunities. 

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The unveiling of the Paris 2024 Olympics Medals

How much is an Olympic Medal worth?

Depending on how much you value an Olympic medal in your own mind, you might be surprised to find out how much precious metals are found in the average medal. The 2022 Olympic medals contained over $700 worth of silver and gold, according to a report by the New York Times.

Interestingly enough, gold medals are mainly silver (the IOC dictates that all gold medals must be composed of at least 92.5 percent silver). These first-place medals are gold-plated with six grams of pure gold. How's that for a fascinating bit of Olympic trivia?

Plus, the medals awarded at the 2024 Summer Games will be historic, for they will each include a bit of the iconic Eiffel Tower. The iron included came from pieces that were removed during various renovations and kept preserved in storage, according to the Associated Press.

Of course, nothing stops Olympic athletes from selling their gold, silver, and bronze medals after they receive them. In fact, authentic Olympic gold medals are sometimes found on auction sites for tens of thousands of dollars, depending on who the medal previously belonged to. One such athlete is Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who is auctioning off three medals to help fund Indiana’s largest and most established AIDS medical services center, the Damien Center.

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How Olympic Athletes Make Money

A presentation of The Paris 2024 Olympics Medals

While monetary gain shouldn't be — and isn't — the primary motivation for athletes wanting to compete in the Olympics, it is possible to perform at the highest level on a world stage and make a few dollars in the process.

Countless Team USA athletes make money through sponsorships, endorsements, and the aforementioned monetary awards for bringing an Olympic medal back home. Anybody familiar with seeing iconic American Olympians like Mary Lou Retton and Shaun White on Wheaties cereal boxes knows firsthand how lucrative a successful Olympic career can be!

While no athlete is doing it for the money or the glory, nobody would turn down the sponsorships and endorsements that come with overwhelming Olympic success.

NBC and Peacock will present live coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 26, beginning at noon ET. Telemundo will provide Spanish-language coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Primetime coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Peacock.

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