World Athletics introduces Olympic gold medal prize money. GETTY IMAGES

World Athletics has announced that it will make history by becoming the first International Federation to distribute prize money at the Olympic Games, starting with Paris 2024 in August.

The colour of the track will not be the only thing to change at the next Olympic Games: for the first time, each gold medallist in the 48 athletics events scheduled to take place in Paris 2024 will be awarded a prize of $50,000 (€46,000). A total of $2.4 million  represents a historic move by World Athletics to recognise the outstanding achievements of athletes on the Olympic stage.

According to World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, the decision is a testament to the contribution of track and field athletes, whose performances attract "billions of eyeballs" to Olympic television broadcasts.

"I don't think this is remotely at odds with the concept that the International Olympic Committee often talks about, which is recognising the efforts that our competitors make to the overall success of the Games," said Coe.


Asked if he thought the IOC should have been informed earlier, Coe said: "It's a matter for the sport. The one thing that the IOC has always recognised is the primacy of the International Federations to shape their own future". 

The entire prize fund will come from the portion of revenue allocated to World Athletics by the IOC every four years. Each individual Olympic champion will receive $50,000, while relay teams will also receive $50,000 to be divided among their members, and silver and bronze medallists from the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles will also receive prize money.

"The introduction of prize money for Olympic gold medallists is a pivotal moment for World Athletics and the sport of athletics as a whole, underlining our commitment to empowering the athletes and recognising the critical role they play in the success of every Olympic Games," Coe added.

Athletics began awarding prize money to gold medallists at the 1997 World Championships, with winners at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest receiving $70,000 and athletes who break world records at the World Athletics Championships receiving $100,000.

"Does this undermine the amateur ethic? Well, I'm probably the last generation to compete for my country on a 75p meal ticket and a second-class train ticket. We're on a very different planet to when I was competing, so it's very important that the sport recognises that changed landscape," Coe said.

Head of Paris 2024 and three-time Olympic canoeing gold medallist Tony Estanguet supports the prize money. "I remember when I was an athlete, my only dream was to win an Olympic medal. It's not about the money. You win when you win that kind of medal. (Money) is not your first motivation. But it's also important to make sure that the athletes will also earn some money," he remarked.