Understandable but: Samuda says World Athletics prize money move runs counter to Olympic spirit

By April 10, 2024
SAMUDA...the priceless values in sport which Olympism embodies must be safeguarded. SAMUDA...the priceless values in sport which Olympism embodies must be safeguarded. File

While expressing an understanding for the move by World Athletics to award prize money at the Olympic Games, Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) President Christopher Samuda believes a balance must be struck to preserve the spirit of the games.

In an announcement on Wednesday, World Athletics stated that gold medal winners at this summer’s Paris Olympic Games, in each of the 48 athletic events, will receive US$50,000 (J$7.6 million). That same US$50,000 gold medal prize will be shared among team members of the winning team in relay events.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said the decision to award the cash prizes reflected the efforts of track and field athletes “which attract billions of eyeballs” to the television coverage of the Olympics.

“I don’t believe this is remotely at variance with the concept that the International Olympic Committee often talks about, which is recognising the efforts that our competitors make for the overall success of the Games,” Coe said.

However, Samuda said though move is seemingly logical in World Athletics’ sight, the concept of prize money ran counter to 128 years of Olympic tradition and spirit of amateurism.

“Giving prize money for Olympic gold medalists is understandably a sign of the times and marks what appears to be a growing high tide of world opinion. You know, the professional status of sport has brought with it, inevitably, an increase in demand for rewarding merit, particularly with the emergence of a plethora of competing interests for sporting talent as part of marketing and promotional campaigns and revenue generation,” Samuda said.

“It is understandable in the circumstances. However, the priceless values in sport which Olympism embodies must be safeguarded,” he told SportsMax.TV.

According to reports, the total prize fund of US$2.4 million proposed by World Athletics will come from the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) revenue share allocation that World Athletics receives every four years.

The decision clearly blindsided the International Olympic Committee, which has never awarded money for participating or winning a medal, as it believes that to compete at a Games is reward enough.

It is the first time since the founding of the modern Games in 1896 that a gold medal will automatically come with a guaranteed monetary prize from a sport’s governing body.

 “The priceless values in sport which Olympism embodies must be safeguarded as being critical to the heart, spirit and soul of sport, without which our efforts at creating a gentler and kinder humanity will be penniless. A balance has to be struck in the interest of sport,” Samuda stated.

It is expected that for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, prize money will also be extended to silver and bronze medallists.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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