Quick Takes – How Much Do Olympians Earn?

by Ryan Guina

After a four year break, the Summer Olympics are finally here again. I admit I don’t get as excited as I used to when the Olympics rolled around – anyone remember the First Dream Team back in 1992? But it’s still a lot of fun watching athletes compete for their countries. I’m a bit disappointed that baseball is no longer an Olympic sport, but there is a consolation with The World Baseball Classic, which pits national teams against each other in a tournament. The Inaugural WBC was held in 2006, followed by the second one three years later, in 2009. The third World Baseball Classic will be held in 2013, with the 4 year break instead of a three year break so it wouldn’t conflict with the Summer Olympics. My older brother, my Dad, and I have gone to the WBC Finals since the WBC was launched and we are looking at the possibility of going to the finals in San Francisco next year. It should be a lot of fun!

How Much Do Olympians Earn?

CNN Money recently had a very interesting article about how much US Olympic athletes earn. American Olympians aren’t always state sponsored as athletes are in many countries, leaving many American athletes to fend for themselves, often competing for prize money and sponsorships just to get by. Many athletes work part time jobs or even pay out of pocket for their training and competition. Unless the athlete is among the top ranked athletes in a very popular sport, the money just isn’t there. According to the article, only 50% of American track and field athletes who are ranked in the top ten in the nation in their event earn more than $15,000 a year in income from the sport. This is in stark contrast to athletes in some of the major sports like basketball, where they often earn hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars per year. For many Olympians, it truly is about performing for pride and the love of the sport.

How Much is an Olympic Gold Medal Worth?

2012 Summer Olympics Gold Medal

Keeping with the same theme, CNN Money had an article about the value of Olympic gold medal, which surprisingly, only contains a small amount of gold. The medals are comprised of 1.34% gold, and roughly 93% silver and 6% copper. The melt value of the materials is worth around $650. Of course, no one would melt an Olympic medal. They rarely come to auction, but when they do, they often fetch five-figure returns, or higher, depending on the athlete, the sport, and other circumstances around the medal.

Image credit : Wikimedia Commons.

Published or updated April 6, 2016.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew @ Money Crashers

Pretty eye opening chatter on Olympic incomes…crazy how much they put into the sport, probably moreso than many other professional athletes who are higher paid, but don’t get much more out of it than the love of the game. Appreciate the mention Ryan!


2 Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

Just like any athlete for any sport, only the “chosen and favorable ones” make millions while the rest stay on the side — benchwarmers, in other words. It is a big gamble if you want to get an opportunity at the Olympics. It should also open our eyes that a lot of college kids play sports for a scholarship, but do not turn professional afterwards.


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