Well, the 2012 Summer Olympics are finally over. It was all a lot of fun but, unfortunately, now it’s time to pay the bill.
What bill, you ask?
Well, I’m not talking about the bill the taxpayers of London are going to be paying off for the next 20 years—the bill for the games themselves. Though that, too, will have to be paid. (Sorry, London.) No, I’m talking about the bill for all those gold medals.
You see, a lot of countries offer cash bonuses to their athletes for bringing home the gold. In some countries, these bonuses are relatively modest in size because they are merely rewards for a job well-done (and attempts to suck up to temporarily patriotic Olympics-drunk voters). In other countries, however, these bonus are pretty sizable because they think they will have a carrot and stick effect, motivating athletes to do better in order to get that big payday.
So now that the Games are over and all the medals have been handed out, it’s time for the various governments and Olympic Committees around the world to get the bill for all their Olympic success. And in some cases, the bill is pretty high.
Thus today we’re raking 23 countries in accordance with what they pay for gold medal victories at the Olympics. Then we’ll add up all the wins to calculate how much each country will owe its gold medalists.
Let’s get started.
The hosts of this year's Games apparently didn't want to tarnish the spirit of the Olympics by making the competition about money. Or maybe they just didn't have any money left over after building all those new venues. Either way, Great Britain isn't paying it's gold medal winners jack squat. And it's a good thing, too, because their athletes overachieved and finished third in the gold medal count this year with 29.
The Bill: $0
23. Great Britain - $0
Ghana offered up $10,000 (US) for any athletes who brought home gold this year, which probably does a lot further in Accra than it would in, say, Omaha. However, none of Ghana's 8 athletes won a medal this year, let alone gold.
The Bill: $0
22. Ghana - $10,000
Germany gives its gold medal winners a $19,500. And while the only won gold in 11 events (which is the number you see in the medal counts), several of these medals came in team sports. So the actual number of gold medalists to pay is 45.
The Bill: $877,500
21. Germany - $19,500
Canada tied their Summer Olympics best with 18 total medals, but only one of them was gold. They do pay $10,000 for bronze medals, so they'll have to write some checks for those. But the gold medal bill is small
The Bill: $20,150
20. Canada - $20,150
Australia only won gold in 7 events this year, but there were 18 gold medalists. And because 7 of them were swimmers, who get an extra $36,500 each for their Olympic victories (which must make all the other Olympians feel really great), that makes the total higher than you would expect.
The Bill: $620,900
19. Australia - $20,300
The U.S. bonus for winning gold is small relative to other countries on this list and hasn't increased in over a decade. Still, the USA led all countries in gold medals this year with 46. And since a lot of these were team sports, that means there are 147 individual gold medals to pay for.
The Bill: $3,675,000
Bonus Trivia: since Michael Phelps has won 18 gold medals, 2 silvers, and 2 bronzes in his Olympic career, that means the guy has collected $500,000 for his medals...which is probably what he makes in endorsements in about six weeks.
18. USA - $25,000
For the first time, the DR offered a $30,000 bonus for gold medals this year. And while they only won 2 medals in London, one of them was gold—Felix Sanchez won the men's 400m hurdles.
The Bill: $30,000
17. Dominican Republic - $30,000
Japan won 7 gold medals, and they all came in individual events. (Economically speaking, the USA women's soccer team really did them a favor by knocking their team off in the finals. A Japan win would have been expensive.)
The Bill: $267,400
16. Japan - $38,200
Mexico won just 7 medals in London and only 1 was gold. However, the gold came in men's soccer. So that means there are actually 18 Mexican gold medalists.
The Bill: $666,000
15. Mexico - $37,000
The Chinese won't officially say what they're paying their gold medal winners this year. However, one chinese language sports magazine said it would be around $51,000 USD which is a slight step up from what they've paid in the past. So that sounds about right. And at that rate, with 38 gold medals and 56 gold medalists, the bill won't be cheap.
The Bill: $2,856,000
14. China - $51,000
South Africa won 3 gold medals in London—2 individual medals in swimming and one team medal in rowing, for a total of 6 gold medalists.
The Bill: $330,000
13. South Africa - $55,000
The French pay a hefty $65,000 for gold medals, and at London 2012 they won 11 of them. These included wins in men's handball and a swimming relay, though, so that brings their number of gold medalists up to 30.
The Bill: $1,950,000
12. France - $65,000
The Ukraine finished a respectable 12th in total medals with 20, and 6 of them were gold. One of those golds came in women's quadruple rowing, though, so there are 9 Ukrainian gold medalists.
The Bill: $900,000
11. Ukraine - $100,000
Now we're getting to the serious spenders. Russia finished third in overall medals behind the USA and China with 82. However, the finished fourth in gold medals behind the USA, China, and Great Britain. Still, with wins in team sports like men's volleyball, synchronized swimming, and rhythmic gymnastics, that makes for 50 gold medalists. And at $135,000 a piece, they'll still be paying their champions a lot.
The Bill: $6,750,000
10. Russia - $135,000
Little Latvia only won three medalists in two events. But one of them was gold—Maris Strombergs in men's BMX.
The Bill: $172,000
9. Latvia - $172,000
Italy offers the largest gold medal bonus of any european country. And that's despite some dire economic circumstances—so you know they want it bad. This year they finished 10th in total medals and 8th in golds with 8. A few of those came in team events, like women's fencing, so that brings their number of gold medalists up to 16. So they'll be making a pretty large payout.
The Bill: $2,912,000
8. Italy - $182,000
The country Borat made fun of was actually 18th in total medals at the 2012 Summer Games and 12th in gold medals with an impressive 7. (If you're keeping score at home, thats 7x more gold than Canada, despite being only half the size and half and a quarter as rich.) Luckily for the Kazakh government, however, all 7 golds came in individual events.
The Bill: $1,750,000
7. Kazakhstan - $250,000
It's easy to offer big money to gold medal winner when you don't think you'll win any. They've only won one Olympic gold ever (in trap shooting in 2004), so there was no reason to think they'd have to pay anyone $272,000 this year. It sure sounds generous, though.
The Bill: $0
6. United Arab Emirates - $272,000
The Philippines is another country with a huge bonus for gold medal winners, but whose 11 athletes failed to reach the podium even once. You'll notice that this is a trend.
The Bill: $0
5. Philippines - -$340,900
Malaysia offers a whopping $315,000 for a "regular" gold medal. But if that gold medal happened to come in badminton, a sport that has particular value in that part of the world, then the winner would also have received a gold bar with $630,000. Unfortunately, Chong Wei Lee only won silver in men's singles badminton...so he must have been pretty crushed.
The Bill: $0
4. Malaysia - $315,000
Azerbaijan is a tiny country on the Caspian sea, but they took home 10 medals at London 2012, including 2 gold in men's wrestling.
The Bill: $1,000,000
3. Azerbaijan - $500,000
The tiny city-state of Singapore did win two medals this year in table tennis, but both were bronze. Thus, they are off the hook for a lot of money.
The Bill: $0
2. Singapore - $800,000
Georgia, only has about half the population of its neighbor, Azerbaijan (4 million versus 8 million), but they pay more than twice as much to their gold medalists. And since Georgia actually won one gold medal—Lasha Shavdatuashvili in men's Judo—they'll also be paying out more than Azerbaijan, too.
The Bill: $1,200,000