Should Olympic athletes get paid?

For the first time in history, an international sporting body will pay some Olympians for their achievements in Paris this summer

Photo montage of sprinters chasing a dollar bill
The move has brought a bit of controversy
(Image credit: Illustration by Stephen Kelly / Getty Images)

In 1986, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) amended its governing charter to encourage "all the world's great male and female athletes to participate." While the language may seem benign, the charter revision was a bombshell event for the athletic institution, then almost a century old. For the first time since its creation in the late 19th century, the modern Olympics would allow professional athletes to compete alongside what had formerly been a vigilantly guarded roster of amateurs. The games would never be the same again.

Now, with all eyes on Paris ahead of the upcoming 2024 summer Olympics, this year's games will experiment with a similarly historic change. Some athletes, for the first time in Olympic history, will be paid by an international body for their participation, marking a new chapter for competitors and the competitions alike. In a statement released earlier this month, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe announced his organization — the "world governing body for the sport of track and field athletics" — will award $50,000 to each gold medal winner in the Olympics' 48 different track and field events. The initiative also includes a "firm commitment to extend the prize money at a tiered level" for other medalists in the 2028 Los Angeles games. 

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Rafi Schwartz, The Week US

Rafi Schwartz has worked as a politics writer at The Week since 2022, where he covers elections, Congress and the White House. He was previously a contributing writer with Mic focusing largely on politics, a senior writer with Splinter News, a staff writer for Fusion's news lab, and the managing editor of Heeb Magazine, a Jewish life and culture publication. Rafi's work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GOOD and The Forward, among others.