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Whose medal is weightier?

BS Weekend Team 

An Olympic medal, one might say, is about fame, recognition and glory. In a medal-starved country like ours, it’s also about cash rewards. So when six of our players — Sushil Kumar, Saina Nehwal, Vijay Kumar, M C Mary Kom, and — returned with medals from London Olympics 2012, various federations and state governments came forward to shower cash rewards on them. Ever wondered if other countries too reward their medal-winners this handsomely?

Take the case of Usain Bolt, arguably one of the greatest Olympians of all time. Bolt, who won gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, was the star of the Jamaican contingent. For his Olympic feat, he received a cash reward of Rs 1.5 crore from the Jamaican government. Compare this with Sushil Kumar, who won a silver and was rewarded Rs 3.1 crore in cash — more than double of what Bolt got for his heroics in London.

Swimmer Michael Phelps, another all-time great Olympian who won six medals in London, received a cash reward of $25,000 (approximately Rs 14 lakh) from the US Olympic Committee. And what did get? Rs 1.5 crore — almost 10 times of Phelps! The US has a rigid bonus payment structure for its athletes: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for a bronze. In London, US won 104 medals of which 46 were gold. In comparison to US, Russia heaps enormous cash rewards on its medalists. A gold medalist from Russia gets $135,000 (about Rs 7.3 crore) in cash.

Wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, a surprise medallist in London, was perhaps the least rewarded Indian athlete. He pocketed less than Rs 1 crore in cash. But he was still luckier than Great Britain’s Mo Farah who won two gold medals in 5,000m and 10,000m but didn’t get any cash reward from the state. Britain does not have a policy of doling out cash rewards to its winners. However, they are accorded perks like a stamp being released in their name. If a stamp on an athlete is released, he or she stands to earn $16,000 (about Rs 10 lakh).

China, a country which always does well at the Olympics, has a bonus structure in place. Though the officials never confirm the amount, media reports indicate it’s $78,000 (about Rs 50 lakh) for gold medalists. Compare that to what Mary Kom got for her bronze — Rs 1.75 crore from different states and the boxing federation. Vijay Kumar, the shooter who won a bronze, earned about Rs 1crore in cash. Gagan Narang, too, pocketed a similar amount for the bronze he won.

No one should, however, grudge Indian athletes these cash rewards. After all, they don’t make the kind of money Phelps and Bolt make through endorsements and sponsorships. Bolt, in fact, ranked 63rd in the Forbes’s 2012 list of richest sportspersons. Phelps’s net worth was valued at $30 million and he endorses brands like Omega, Nike, Louis Vuitton and Visa. Bolt has Hublot, Nissan and Visa, among other brands, in his kitty. So, even if Indian athletes rake in more money on winning medals than their illustrious counterparts from other countries, on the whole, they still earn far less.

First Published: Sat, December 01 2012. 00:56 IST