Gold medal for politics: why Olympic prize cash is a brilliant transfer by Seb Coe | Sean Ingle

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Gold medal for politics: why Olympic prize cash is a brilliant transfer by Seb Coe | Sean Ingle

World Athletics’ radical choice to turn into the primary sport to award prize cash to Olympic gold medallists got here as a bolt from the blue – nevertheless it additionally carried the subtlety of a bare-chested strongman swinging a fairground sledgehammer.

This was a transfer designed to poke on the Worldwide Olympic Committee’s tenderest areas, by highlighting the very fact within the 128-year historical past of the Video games it has by no means paid its stars to compete within the greatest sporting present of all. Judging by the IOC’s terse response, it labored too.

The truth that World Athletics’ president Sebastian Coe didn’t communicate to IOC president Thomas Bach prematurely – and that Coe is an anticipated candidate when Bach’s job comes up for election subsequent yr – is not going to have gone unnoticed within the corridors of Lausanne both.

Some have been fast to ask whether or not paying $50,000 (£40,000) to each gold monitor and subject gold medallist would possibly injury the Olympic spirit? However that, rightly, was dismissed by Coe. High athletes, in any case, have been given cash from sponsors for competing on the Video games for many years – whereas 60% of Nationwide Olympic Committees give bonuses to their athletes too. Sure, this was a radical gesture. However it additionally trod on a well-worn path.

The notion that having prize cash may flip the Olympics into simply one other occasion additionally appears unlikely. Once I spoke to Karsten Warholm, the reigning Olympic 400m hurdles champion, he made it clear that glory mattered excess of dollars.

Sebastian Coe is predicted to run for president of the Worldwide Olympic Council in 2025. {Photograph}: Martin Rickett/PA

“It doesn’t change my motivation,” he mentioned. “To me an Olympic gold medal is personally value a lot far more than all the cash ever. However I feel it’s a superb transfer by World Athletics. The sign is even higher than the precise sum of cash.”

Most athletes, I believe, would agree. So how ought to we interpret World Athletics’ announcement? First, it’s a welcome acknowledgment that with out the athletes the Olympics can be nothing. They’re the starring solid, not the sharp-suited bureaucrats and per diem hangers-on you see at each Olympics.

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Second, don’t essentially anticipate different worldwide sports activities to observe go well with. Most easily don’t have the $2.4m in funds that it’ll price World Athletics.

Lastly, it’s value declaring that Coe – who was a Conservative get together whip – was additionally enjoying very sensible politics. Between 2017 and 2021, the IOC made $7.6bn in income by way of broadcasting and advertising and marketing rights, in addition to different revenue streams. And whereas the IOC redistributes 90% of its income, which quantities to $4.2m day-after-day to sport and athletes, Coe is aware of that many athletes regard that as not almost sufficient.


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