Paris 2024 | Athletics bonuses trouble the world of Olympics

(Lausanne) Welcomed by certain athletes, the unprecedented decision of World Athletics to pay bonuses to the gold medalists of the 2024 Olympic Games is sowing discord in the world of Olympics, where no other International Federation has been consulted, so that their finances often do not allow them to follow this path.

Certainly, the fight for amateurism of the founder of the modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, was already a distant memory when the world athletics body became, last week, the first to announce awards, to the tune of 50 000 dollars, for its future Olympic champions.

The overall allocation to cover the 48 events of the discipline, or 2.4 million dollars, will be taken from the allocation paid every four years by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to World Athletics, which had received nearly 40 million dollars after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as after the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

If the financial impact of the Paris Games (July 26-August 11) is not yet known, the international federation assures that it will also pay bonuses to silver and bronze medalists from the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“It’s a very good initiative from World Athletics,” rejoiced Norwegian sprinter Karsten Warholm. “I think this is their way of showing that they want to push even harder for this to become a professional sport.”

Abandoned “Solidarity”

But “the proposal was not discussed” with the rest of the Olympic movement, lamented Thursday David Lappartient, the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), referring to “a change in Olympic values” if this must “go to the end “.

“Since the beginning, the Olympic champions have not received any money,” he recalled, even though everyone pays for their sporting glory in various contracts – in extremely variable proportions depending on nationality and disciplines.

By targeting “the happy few” according to their results, the decision of World Athletics contradicts the idea that the funds allocated by the IOC “are for the development of sport, for solidarity”, insisted the French leader.

It is a question of “replenishing the bank accounts of non-needy athletes rather than helping those who need it most”, for its part denounced the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (Acnoa), recalling ” the gulf” between athletes from the richest countries and others, and the “unrivaled social wealth” that athletics can constitute on the African continent.

On Thursday, its Athletes’ Commission also expressed concern “about clean sport, because by further increasing the incentive to win, athletes could be exposed to betting, manipulation or pressure to turn to doping.”

“Pressure” on others

More broadly, the lone rider of World Athletics breaks the unity of treatment between the winners of the disciplines, putting each international federation in a delicate position while their financial resources are very heterogeneous.

“It’s clear that other sports are going to come under scrutiny and even pressure from athletes who will say ‘What about our sport, how come this sport can do it and we can’t?” “, noted the head of the British Olympic committee, Andy Anson, on Wednesday to the Sky Sports channel.

“It’s a debate we can have, but we have to have it at the right time, in the right place and together,” he added.

No international federation has announced that it wants to imitate World Athletics: the tennis federation (ITF) has indicated that any such plan should be “designed in consultation with the Association of International Summer Olympic Federations and the IOC”, and the of basketball (Fiba) recalled that it already supported “its member federations in various ways, to cover their costs of organizing or participating in selection competitions”.

Few bodies could in any case release a comparable envelope, since World Athletics is one of the best endowed by the IOC with gymnastics and swimming, in addition to its own resources drawn from television rights for its competitions.

The international summer federations are divided into five groups and rugby, modern pentathlon and golf only receive $13 million, three times less than the king sports. For most of them, the Olympic windfall is essential to their survival.

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