|Figure 1. From CBC website|
Nevertheless, since winning gold is rarely, if ever, a reliable source of income I figured these cash prizes were a form of saving face for the countries themselves and less so for rewarding athletes. It's as if to say "look, we don't shortchange our athletes, at least if they are winning". I wondered if there was a correlation between the prize money and the general wealth of these countries per capita. Hence I took the figure 1 prize values and plotted them against GDP.
|Figure 2: Olympic prize money compared with GDP per capita wealth per country|
There is a deeper significance to the negative correlation in figure 2. Wealthier countries can potentially afford larger medal prizes than poorer ones. And poorer countries don't win enough medals for these payouts to be a significant cash drain. Hence the absolute money given out to athletes is rather arbitrary. Canada pays out $20,000 per gold medal. This is a pittance when you consider the years of effort required to earn one. An annual graduate stipend in a canadian science program is more than 20 grand, which is also small, and there are a lot more graduate students than Olympics athletes in Canada. The majority of legitimate money comes from sponsorship deals like commercials and public appearances for talks. Is this a good point in favour of capitalism in amateur sports? I need to look into this a little deeper.