How much is Olympic gold worth? It depends on where you’re from. The medal itself—weighing in at 400 grams (6 grams of which are actual gold)—is worth an estimated US$650 but some countries pay big bonuses for reaching the top of the podium.
Italy pays the most of any G8 country, offering more than $182,000 per gold medal. As of Friday, the severely indebted country owed at least $1.28 million to its seven gold-medal winning athletes. The U.S? $975,000 to its 39 gold medal stars plus thousands more for silver and bronze medals winners.
Smaller countries tend pay more. Singapore, which has only 23 athletes in London, pays roughly $800,000 but as of Friday, the country had yet to win a single gold. Kazakhstan’s $250,000 golden cash incentive has proved fruitful. The former Soviet nation already has six gold medals, four of them in weightlifting.
What China will pay its 39 (and counting) golden athletes remains a mystery although reports out of Beijing in 2008 suggested gold medal winners received $54,900. New reports peg the number in the 6-figure range. Only Georgia is rumoured to pay more with some estimates as high as $1.2 million. If that’s true, Judo star Lasha Shavdatuashvili hit the jackpot when he won Georgia’s first and only gold of the Games.
In other countries, winning Olympic gold pays dividends for years. South Korean athletes get a monthly salary in addition to the one-time bonus, India promises a coaching job to its winners and Greece offers a permanent position in the civil service, according to reports. Germany may give its gold medal winners a cash bonus of $19,500 but the real prize is 50 litres of free beer each month, for life. Similarly, Belarus serves up a life-time supply of free sausages in addition to its $135,000 cash bonus while Zimbabwe offers a free milk cow to its gold medal winners.
Here’s a breakdown of what the G8 countries pay, corporate sponsorship and private gifts aside: