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occ's avatar

Do Olympic athletes get paid?

Asked by occ (4080points) July 6th, 2008

Obviously some get lucrative endorsements, but many don’t…do the athletes get a salary for the 2+ years that they are in training full time? do they get free housing?

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6 Answers

eambos's avatar

Great question. I’d like to know the answer too.

marinelife's avatar

Not as salaries in the U.S.:

“In the United States, where many athletes begin training at an early age, training costs for athletes under 18 generally are paid by athletes’ parents. Those expenses can run into tens of thousands annually for the most talented youngsters. When an athlete is selected to a national team, some funding usually becomes available from the USOC and the NGB. In addition, many NGBs sponsor short training camps for especially talented young athletes.

For many athletes whose peak performance years fall in their late teens or 20s, the United States’ colleges and universities become their primary source of training. Often competing on scholarship, these athletes’ efforts are rewarded not only with top-notch coaching but with financial aid to complete their education. The coaches and facilities available at U.S. universities draw athletes from all over world who are looking to perfect their skills and then compete for their home countries in international competition.

Many U.S. corporations financially support U.S. Olympic athletes, receiving in return favorable publicity, the right to use Olympic symbols in their advertising and public good will. Among the current corporate partners to the U.S. Olympic movement are Anheuser-Busch Inc., AT&T, Bank of America, General Motors, The Home Depot and Johnson & Johnson.

While support often takes the form of cash or other contributions to the USOC, some businesses find ways to assist individual athletes. Retailer The Home Depot, for instance, has assisted individually hundreds of athletes by offering them jobs where they work 20-hour weeks for a 40-hour salary, with flexible schedules that afford time off for training and competitions. Thirty-three of the 2006 U.S. team’s 211 members are Home Depot employees.”

marinelife's avatar

It is different in other countries.

:Canada”: “Canadian athletes will receive cash rewards for winning medals at the Olympic Games. The Canadian Olympic Committee announced the decision Monday as it prepared for the Summer Games next August in Beijing.”

Here is a more general encapsulation of the historic and current situation:

“Prior to 1952, there was only one kind of athlete allowed in the Olympic Games—Winter and Summer. Then the Soviet Union and its 14 Communist allies entered the games. All their athletes were fully supported by their governments. None ever held a job. They trained 8 hours a day, 365 days a year. They won most of the gold, silver and bronze during the 1970s and 1980s. None of these athletes were amateur, and yet they were allowed to compete in the Olympics (which made athletes sign pledges that they were amateurs) because the communist athletes were not definable, they were not “pros” like Michael Jordan. It was unfair. So in 1986, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) changed its rule book (Olympic Charter) to allow “all the world’s great male and female athletes to participate.”

winblowzxp's avatar

I think that they should bring back that rule.

jkato's avatar

do competitors get paid to compete in gymnastics

lucyferr's avatar

It differs with sport and country. The vast majority of them – probably well over 95% – do not get paid enough to make a living from the sport. Here are some stories:

From Britain, the story of the captain of the British women’s handball team. (Handball is still in its infancy there.) She married a male handballer two years ago – a really nice guy – and they still haven’t managed to spend more than a month together. A heartbreaking interview, and yet I’m so jealous of how close they are. They also talk about the funding situation, and how the athletes coped with it. He didn’t manage to make the national team, but they said that even if he had, one of them would have had to drop out since the money they were getting from the national team was less than what they would have gotten from a more normal part-time job.

Several athletes serve in the army. Mike Dixon (biathlon) is a combat engineer in the British armed forces, who works as a fitness instructor and motivational speaker. Václav Chalupa, Jr (rowing, one silver medal) is a captain in the Czech army and a skilled repairman of agricultural machinery.

Shooters typically don’t get paid much. Canadian (now Seattle-resident) Dr Susan Nattrass could tell you about that. After earning a masters in 1974, she went to one Olympics in 1976, then worked at various jobs in teaching, admin, etc before going back to get her Phd. After becoming Dr Nattrass in 1987, she returned for her second Olympics in 1988, and then four more Olympics. She now has her own medical research facility for osteoporosis, so she sure aint giving up her day job. Of course, she’s exceptional – I think most shooters tend to have jobs in the armed forces and police forces. I don’t know if any Olympic shooter ever was a sniper during warfare, but it’s hard to imagine that that’s not the case.

PS: Dixon, Chalupa, Nattrass have all competed at at least six Olympics.

In the old Soviet days, many athletes had jobs in the police & armed forces. But many of those jobs weren’t mere sinecures like the Western media loudly trumpeted. And those days are long gone in any case.

In India, the worst nation in the world at the Olympics, the top athletes often have jobs at the railways – ticket collector (work at night, train during the day), clerk, etc.

Here are some other articles on Olympic sacrifice and suffering – e.g. US pairs skater Mark Ladwig speaking of juggling ten credit cards, etc.

It should be somewhat clear that the financial outlook for the average Olympic athlete from Africa or other third world countries isn’t that great, either. Although the sad tale of illiterate South African marathoner and 1996 gold medalist Josiah Thugwane ( ) who was with his family repeatedly threatened for his money after the Games (”...his wife was greeted at the gate of their home by the severed head of a monkey impaled on the garden railings…”) is exceptional for its brutality.

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