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Track and field to be first sport to pay prize money at Olympics

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Track and field athletes who win gold at the coming Summer Olympics in Paris will go home with an extra $50,000, World Athletics announced Wednesday. The landmark decision makes track and field the first sport to introduce prize money at the Olympics.

The move is a symbolic break with the amateur past of the Olympics in one of the games' most-watched events.

Athletics officials said it is setting aside $2.4 million to pay gold medalists across the 48 events on the track and field program at this year's Paris Olympics. Relay teams will split the $50,000 between their members. Payments for silver and bronze medalists are planned to start from the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

"The introduction of prize money for Olympic gold medalists is a pivotal commitment to empowering the athletes and recognizing the critical role they play in the success of any Olympic Games," World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said in a statement.

The prize money will come out of the share of Olympic revenue that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) distributes to World Athletics.

"While it is impossible to put a marketable value on winning an Olympic medal, or on the commitment and focus it takes to even represent your country at an Olympic Games, I think it is important we start somewhere and make sure some of the revenues generated by our athletes at the Olympic Games are directly returned to those who make the Games the global spectacle that it is," Coe said.

Coe, a British runner who won gold in the 1,500 meters at the 1980 and 1984 Games, told reporters that World Athletics gave the IOC a "heads-up" of its intentions on Wednesday morning, shortly before it published its announcement.

In response, the IOC told CBS in a statement that it was up to each sport's governing body to decide how to spend its share of Olympic revenue.

"The IOC redistributes 90% of all its income, in particular to the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs)," the IOC said. "This means that, every day, the equivalent of $4.2 million goes to help athletes and sports organizations at all levels around the world. It is up to each IF and NOC to determine how to best serve their athletes and the global development of their sport."

Athletes will have to pass "the usual anti-doping procedures" at the Olympics before they receive the new prize money, World Athletics added.

The modern Olympics originated as an amateur sports event and the IOC does not award prize money. However, many medalists receive payments from their countries' governments, national sports bodies or from sponsors.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee awarded $37,500 to gold medalists at the last Summer Games in Tokyo in 2021. Singapore's National Olympic Council promises $1 million for Olympic gold, a feat only achieved once so far by a Singaporean competitor.

In sports like tennis and golf, the Olympic tournament is the only time in a season that many pro players compete for free, with medals on offer but no prize money. But Coe didn't want to speculate on whether other events could follow track and field's lead.

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