Do Olympic Athletes Get Paid?

Olympians are not just some of the most celebrated athletes in their countries, but some of the most celebrated figures overall — so, they must get paid a lot for their Olympic achievements? You might be surprised to find out it doesn't necessarily work that way, so how do these athletes make money?


Few sporting events have shaped human history as the Olympic Games — but many people are still in the dark when it comes to how much, or even if Olympic athletes are paid.

The first Olympians get dated to 776 BC, taking place within a sanctuary in Olympia, Greece. There the victors’ wreaths got cut from Zeus’ sacred olive tree. The first modern iteration of the games appropriately happened in Athens in 1896, thanks to French historian Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who led the charge for their rebirth.

Now, in their modern-day form, they have been going on for over one hundred and twenty years, regularly held every four. They have earned a reputation for being the pinnacle of sports. However, they have also confused the public. Mainly, concerning the topic – do Olympic athletes get paid to participate in these events? Do they earn anything other than a medal?

Moreover, aside from how much do Olympians make, there is also uncertainty amongst most sporting fans as to who pays these sportsmen and women — Is it the international Olympic committee, their sport’s national governing bodies, or their country’s governments?

Keep reading to learn how much money do athletes get to compete at the Olympics? Can they sign endorsement deals for the games, and how much are their medals worth monetarily?

How Do Olympic Athletes Make a Living?

As likely everyone knows, the Olympics are an amateur sporting competition. Athletes do not get compensated for participating in them. There is no reward that the IOC gives away to anyone that fulfills an Olympic quota.

In general, participants do not get a salary. They only get their travel, lodging, and food expenses covered. The exception is some teams that have dedicated sponsors that supply those teams’ members with per diems or salaries. American companies that sponsor USA teams include Allstate, AT&T, and Anheuser-Busch.

Nike is the official sponsor of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, contributing apparel to its teams.

Thanks to a recent NIL rule change, Olympic athletes can now sign endorsement deals with non-official Olympic sponsors, letting them monetize their social media accounts and sell their branded merchandise. Hunter Woodhall is an American Paralympic track star that has done just that, thanks to his 2.6 million followers on TikTok.

Naturally, the highest money-making potential lies in winning a medal, as such an achievement comes with a prize money purse. That holds for competitors from virtually any country.

Which Country Pays Its Olympians the Most?

The Olympic prize pools and the specific rewards governments and national Olympic committees can award for attained medals vary from competition to competition.

Singapore Delegation

The Singapore delegation at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Going by data accumulated by CNBC via various sources, Singapore is the country that would have most generously rewarded its medaling athletes in the Tokyo games. If a Singapore competitor managed to take the top spot on the podium, that person would have taken home a prize of $737,000.  Second place at the Olympics would have won Singaporeans in Tokyo $369,000, and bronze would have clenched them a reward of $184,000.

Surprisingly, Kazakhstan was the nation that was the second-most-giving. Its gold medal winners would have raked in a quarter of a million dollars if there were any. That is $487,000 less than athletes from Singapore but is still $14,000 more than what competitors from Malaysia would have earned for a first-place finish.

The USA ranked in ninth place on the medal rewards table. Its committee gave away $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver, and $15,000 for bronze.

Who’s the Highest-Paid Olympian?

That’s a bit of a complicated question. Michael Jordan is likely the richest athlete to ever compete in the Olympics, boasting a net worth of $2.2 billion. Lionel Messi (a net worth of $600 million) trails far behind in second place. However, these two sportsmen did not make their fortunes through their Olympic success.

Michael Phelps is the most successful competitive swimmer and Olympian ever, with twenty-eight Olympic medals. Estimates put his net worth at around $55 million. Though again, most of these earnings do not come from medal prizes. They are from endorsement deals.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt Celebrating at the Beijing Olympics.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Leo Bolt is an eight-time Olympic medalist and the only runner to win the one hundred and two hundred meter titles at three consecutive Olympics. On top of this, he also has two relay-race gold medals (4 x 100). His net worth is over $60 million, much of it stemming from his long-time Puma endorsement deal.

Do the Winter Olympics Pay the Same?

As a rule of thumb, yes. Most countries adhere to the same pay structure outlined for summer game athletes and those that compete in the winter games. That holds even though the TV viewership and overall interest in the winter Olympics are substantially less than their summer counterparts.

Bet on the Winter Olympics, or discover the best sports betting sites to wager on any league, game, or sport.

Dave Consolazio

Dave Consolazio has been passionate about writing and sports journalism since his high school years. He has a degree in Broadcast Journalism from USC where he worked with the school's radio and television stations. His work has been featured in SportsbookReview, Sports Illustrated and SB Nation. Dave's experience ranges across multiple fields in the gambling industry. You can find his sports, casino, and poker articles in

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