Winners of an event can receive $50,000 for earning first place, but the sum reduces as a competitor's rank drops (10th place only pays $1,000, barely enough to cover the athletes' travel expenses) [source: Longman and Higgins]. For over a century, the Olympics were the pinnacle of athletic competition. But since its inception in 1896, the Olympic Games have been used as a platform for political statements and commercial endorsements. Modern-day athletes still earn millions, but most come off contract with shoe companies or media agencies.
The highest amount ever awarded at the X Games is $250,000. It was won by Anderson Silva in 2007. In that year, the prize went to one of the competitors who defeated him in the final match of the season - James McManus. The award was given out after his victory over Rich Lee.
In 2010, ESPN paid out $750,000 in total prizes across all four seasons of the X Games. That's more than any other sports network has ever invested in the event group, which now includes skateboarding, snowboarding, and BMX biking.
Even with the increase in cash awards, many athletes still cannot cover their costs of competing. According to the Wall Street Journal, about 1 in 10 skaters who enter the X Games ends up bankrupt. Some drop out of the sport entirely because they cannot afford to continue racing against people who make far more money than they do.
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC), for example, compensates competitors who finish first, second, or third. A gold medal is worth $25,000, a silver medal is worth $15,000, and a bronze medal is worth $10,000. The more medals an athlete earns, the more money he or she earns. For example, if an athlete wins two gold medals, he or she will receive $50,000.
In addition to the cash awards, winners also receive all-expense-paid trips to Los Angeles to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Travel, food, and lodging are all paid for by the USOC.
The largest single award given out at the end of these events is called the "Golden Heart Award". It is presented to the athlete who exhibits the most outstanding character during the games.
In addition to the cash awards and the Golden Heart Award, athletes can win additional prizes such as car rentals, airline tickets, and other items donated by companies in exchange for advertising space on the athlete's website or during his or her official biography published by the USOC or another organization.
Some athletes have said that they prefer the extra money over the glory because it's easier to make a living this way. And although most people think that gold is most valuable, many athletes prefer silver because it can be sold later for more money. Bronze is almost worthless after the event is over, but some athletes find this fact enjoyable.
According to 2018 statistics, gold medalists in the United States received $37,500, silver medalists got $22,500, and bronze medalists earned $15,000. Medalists receive not only the medal bonus but also the physical medal itself. If the athlete does not want the medal, they can have it melted down and the gold or silver sold.
The total earnings of all American medallists at the Winter Olympic Games since 1920 amount to $1,085,250 (as of 2018).
At the Summer Olympic Games, gold medalists earn $25,000, silver medalists get $12,500, and bronze medalists earn $7,500. These are the same numbers as for the winter games except that the summer medals aren't made of metal but instead are solid silver or gold-plated brass or copper.
In 2016, France had its first female gold medallist when snowboarder Marie-France Pisier took home the prize for best performance on her event, halfpipe. The award ceremony was held on August 12 of that year. French athletes won a total of four medals overall: three gold and one silver.
Pisier's salary was set at €50,000 ($57,500) for winning her first gold medal and another €50,000 for taking home her second gold.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has set the financial reward for gold, silver, and bronze medalists at $37,500, $22,500, and $15,000, respectively. Singapore, on the other hand, is one of the most lucrative countries, paying medalists roughly $737,000 for gold, $369,000 for silver, and $184,000 for bronze.
The amount varies depending on how many athletes from a country qualify for each event and whether they win or lose. If no one wins a given event, its prize money is divided among the winners based on their placement in the final standings. For example, if there are four nations that each send two athletes to the Olympics, but only one wins a medal, then those four individuals would receive equal shares of the prize money.
At the Summer Olympics, medals are awarded in 26 events, with each event having a different payout structure. The three highest-paying events are men's singles tennis, men's single sculling, and men's swimming. Women's singles tennis, women's single sculling, and women's swimming follow suit as far as prize money is concerned. In fact, all of the women's events pay out approximately the same amount.
The three lowest-paying events for both men and women are equestrian, rowing, and water polo. Each nation can enter up to six athletes per event, with exception of boxing and wrestling which allow only three participants per country.