How much do Olympic athletes earn for a gold, silver or bronze medal?

15 February 2018

The value of a gold medal varies drastically between different competitors at the Winter Olympics, according to new analysis. While the top bonus package, belonging to Kazakhstan, tops €200,000, three nations – including Great Britain – offer athletes no additional financial incentive for excelling in their field.

Some might argue that a place on the podium at the highest sporting stage of the Olympics should be reward enough, and the International Olympic Committee, accordingly, does not pay any money to triumphant athletes at its games. Instead, it is up to national Olympic committees to reward their own successful competitors, should they take home the apex of sporting accolades – an Olympic medal.

According to analysis by, while the nations with the lowest GDP tend to offer the largest individual rewards, they are unlikely to be faced with the largest payout, as traditional sporting powers look set to continue their dominance at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, this year.

Highest medal tallies

The most successful nations in the history of the Winter Olympics are Germany, Russia and Norway. Despite a disappointing outing which saw the Germans finish in sixth place during the 2014 Sochi Games, the country remains the top all-time winner of medals – despite having not even participated in the beginnings of the games, with German athletes absent from the 1924 event at the foot of Mont Blanc in Chamonix. Germany were banned from the event following the First World War, which had seen the nation occupy France, instead hosting its own series of games called the Deutsche Kampfspiele.

Since then, Germany’s tally – including the medals of both East and West Germany, as well as the “United Team” of 1956, 1960, and 1964, before the nation’s reunification – has reached an impressive 377. This includes 106 bronze medals, 135 silvers, and 136 gold medals.

All-time medals won at the Winter Olympic Games 1924 - 2014

While Russia’s athletes will not be permitted to compete at this year’s Winter Olympics under their national banner, due to a doping ban, a delegation will be present to participate as neutrals. At the previous games in 2014, Russia topped the table on home turf with 29 medals, 11 of which were gold, strengthening their position as the nation with the second most golds of all time, and the third highest total tally of medals. Under both the banners of the Russian Federation, post 1990, and the USSR, Russia has won a total of 327 medals at the Winter Games, including 132 golds.

Norway has actually won two more medals than Russia at the Winter Olympics, at time of writing, with an all-time total of 329. However, as the Scandinavian nation has won fewer golds, 118 in total, it ranks third in the most successful nations of the games.

Great Britain, meanwhile, has taken home a total 26 medals – leaving it significantly off the pace in comparison with most Northern European nations, such as France, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands, all of whom have broken the 100 medal mark.

Value of gold

The money offered to athletes is highest in poorer countries. In Belarus, which won five gold slices at the winter games in Sochi in 2014, the financial bonus of the honorary medallion is €132,700. This is more than 26 times the average GDP per capita – although this is perhaps understandable as Belarus is also known unofficially as “Europe’s last dictatorship”, and as a result, a sporting victory for the nation is likely seen by the Lukashenko regime as something to help consolidate its position.

Surprisingly, the top pay-out for an Olympic triumph comes from the similarly low-income nation of Kazakhstan. The Central Asian nation promises its successful athletes a bonus of €215,100 for a gold medal, €125,000 for silver, and €62,500 for a bronze. Kazakhstan is distantly followed by Italy, at €150,000 for gold, €75,000 for silver and €50,000, and Latvia – although the large sums for gold of €142,300 for gold and €85,500 for silver are balanced to an extent by Latvia’s unusual refusal to reward a third place finish for its athletes.

While the potential financial incentive for a Kazakh medalist is significantly more than any other competitor, this disproportionately large potential fee shows that they are also regarded as being significantly less likely to bring home a large haul of accolades. Germany, who as mentioned previously, is historically the most likely nation to medal at the Winter Olympics, only offers the 20th highest package for its successful delegates. The country offers €20,000 per gold medal, €15,000 per silver and €10,000 per bronze. If the Germans equal their medals tally from the 2014 Sochi Games, that would see a total of a €300,000 pay-out, while on the same basis, Kazakhstan will already need to pay out a total of €62,500, as the nation’s athletes have already equaled their single bronze from Russia.

Bonus per medal by country

Interestingly, despite the British Olympic Association’s intent to improve on a history of disappointing medal tallies at the Winter Olympics, they offer athletes absolutely no bonus for victory. Britain took home just four medals over the three Winter Olympics preceding Sochi. Thanks to the largest delegation sent to a Winter Olympics in 26 years, however, Great Britain managed to win four medals in a single games in 2014, taking home two bronze, one silver and one gold medal, after Lizzy Yarnold placed first in the women’s skeleton sled event.

Great Britain is one of just three nations not to offer a bonus for medals. The other two, Sweden and Norway, are significantly more successful at the Winter Olympics historically, with Norway coming second in the medals table to home nation Russia in 2014, with a tally of 26. Athletes from these nations are unlikely to go home empty handed, as they often have individual agreements with sponsors to provide them financial incentives. The sports association can also award a bonus per medal, such as the Swedish ski association, which gives skiers an amount equal to that of the last world championships.

In other countries too, top athletes can receive more than just the bonus from the national Olympic committee. For example, medal winners in Russia get a little extra from the region where they come from. In South Korea and Bulgaria, victorious athletes can count on a lifelong benefit.


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