By Jessica Donaldson
As the Olympics start with a bang, so too does the arguing, the endless comparisons between competitive countries, and the controversy.
This time the massive payments given by some countries to their successful medallists are making the headlines. Detractors are quick to respond that the glory and the life-long memories of standing on the winner’s podium with a gold medal around your neck as your national anthem plays should be more than enough, but many countries don’t agree.
The US Olympic Committee has confirmed that it will by paying the same amount to victorious athletes in London as it did in Beijing: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. Last Olympics, swimmer Michael Phelps collected a whopping $200,000 – gained for the eight gold medals he brought home from the games.
The Australian payment scheme is conducted on annual success, at the Olympics or other world events, and gold medalists can earn a maximum of $20,000.
Germany generously pays its athletes down to an eighth-place finish, and payments range from $20,000 for a gold medal to a more modest $2000 for eighth place.
The basic payment on offer to Russian athletes is more than $125,000, but that can also be hiked up significantly by lucrative regional bonuses. A gold medallist from the remote Chelyabinsk region, for example, could walk away with a life-changing $900,000 cheque.
However, other countries pay their winning medalist nothing at all, or have more unique ways of showing their appreciation.
India’s sports minister Ajay Maken has announced that the government will be offering coaching jobs to any of its athletes that win medals.
For the home team of Great Britain, the rewards are a little more unusual. From the moment any team member wins gold, the Royal Mail will start designing a stamp bearing their image and have the stamps immediately delivered to 500 post offices for sale the following day.
The champions’ stamps will be available in books of six for £GBP3.60 – to be forever remembered by the world’s stamp collectors.