The Rio Games are winding down, and it’s likely that many of the names that have dominated the headlines will recede from public view to one extent or another. Some will retire from their sport (Michael Phelps) and others will continue to train for the next Summer Olympics (Tokyo, 2020).
Have you ever thought about how those athletes are compensated? They work extremely hard for years, hoping for that gold-silver-bronze moment on the podium. But they have to eat while they’re doing that, too. So how much do athletes get paid for competing at the Olympics?
The short answer is: nothing. The International Olympic Committee doesn’t pay athletes anything, and in most cases, countries only provide bonuses to the athletes who win them (for example, American gold medal-winning athletes get $25,000 from the U.S Olympic Committee).
If you’re from Azerbaijan, the medal bonus is big money. If you’re from the U.K., however, I wouldn’t be surprised if you had to pay your own airfare to Rio. (Maybe they’re still paying off debt from the 2012 London Games).
— Voice of America (@VOANews) August 11, 2016
Now, some athletes get big endorsement deals. Take that Phelps fellow again, for example, who has an Under Armour endorsement among others (although Phelps may have ruffled UA feathers by wearing Nike in his Sports Illustrated cover shoot).
Others, like gymnasts Simone Biles and Gabrielle Douglas are signed with Nike. Some Olympians do hold professional status, which isn’t a popular thing according to this poll — and that likely helps pay the bills.