As row erupts, Seb Coe explains World Athletics’ Olympic prize money decision

Xiamen (China): World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has addressed the pivotal decision regarding the provision of prize money for track and field gold medalists at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games even as controversy has erupted with many sports administrators unhappy by the move.

Athletics’ global governing body announced on April 10 its initiative to award prize money at the Olympic Games, marking a significant shift in the landscape of international sports.

A total prize pot of 2.4 million U.S. dollars will be reserved from the International Olympic Committee’s revenue share allocation to reward winners in each of the 48 athletics events at this summer’s Paris Olympics — with relay winners to share the prize. The compensation will be extended to silver and bronze medalists in the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 2028.

The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), an umbrella body of all international sports federations that are part of the Summer Olympics, in its recent statement, expressed concern about the World Athletics decision, claiming the Olympics are basically for amateur sportspersons.

But Coe said what matters more to him is that the athletes have welcomed the move.

“I think the athletes have welcomed (the decision), and that’s important. We are an athlete-focused and athlete-centric organisation,” Coe told Xinhua at the season-opening Diamond League event at Xiamen. “We have to recognise that for many athletes, it’s a very tough, quite precarious existence. You know not every athlete is going to benefit financially from winning an Olympic title.”

Coe’s remarks resonated with athletes facing financial challenges, such as Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango, the men’s triple jump runner-up at the recent Xiamen Diamond League, who highlighted the significance of financial support while acknowledging that such a move may damage the purity of the Olympic Games, reports Xinhua.

“Being athletes is never easy and we need money to get well prepared. And for at least African athletes, we don’t have much support,” Zango noted. “If gold medallists get money, it is really important for us to keep the consistency.”

Meanwhile, the ASOIF stated they were “neither informed nor consulted in advance of the announcement,” and addressed that “for many, this move undermines the values of Olympism and the uniqueness of the Games. This disregards the less privileged athletes lower down the final standings.”

Prominent athletes like high jump Olympic gold medallist Mutaz Barsham, shot put world champion Chase Jackson, and pole vault sensation Armand Duplantis, who set a new world record in Xiamen, voiced support for World Athletics’ initiative, viewing it as a positive step forward for track and field and other sports.

“I think it’s going to be good for track and field. I think it’s going to be good for other sports too. Now it’s going to put pressure on other sports to follow in line,” Duplantis said before the Xiamen event.

ASOIF would appear to disagree with the Swede, pointing out in its statement that not all sports could afford the money.

The money was not a concern to Coe, as he revealed that over the past four years, roughly 80 million U.S. dollars have gone into the development of track and field sports, which covers grassroots and everybody else involved in the sports under the aegis of the Athletics Integrity Unit.

“The budget that we have set aside for the medal prize money is very small compared to the large sum of money that goes into creating those opportunities for everybody,” Coe said, adding, “I hope for the Los Angeles Olympics, we will also be able to support the silver and the bronze medal positions.”


Comments are closed.