This is something that occurred to me the other day when I was pondering why the USA doesn't always bring their best basketball players to the games every 4 (or 5) years. I started digging into it because it seems like a tremendous amount of time and also money goes into training for a sport where unless you land a bunch of lucrative endorsement deals afterwards from Wheaties or Coke, it doesn't seem like it would make a bunch of sense to go into most Olympic sports unless you really really enjoyed doing it.
Sure you can go to college for free if you are really good at track and field, but unless you are Usain Bolt this normally doesn't transition into a lifetime of wealth and frivolity. So how much do the athletes at the Olympics actually get paid?
As it turns out, the answer to that isn't simple at all and it depends a great deal on what sort of incentives your own country is actually going to offer you for winning a medal. The Olympics themselves don't actually pay any winners anything at all outside of the value of the medal itself - which isn't very impressive if you are just breaking it down in the value of the precious metals themselves. A gold medal melted down would be worth about $800 and I only just found out that it is not actually solid gold but rather, gold plated silver. A silver medal is purse silver and worth around $400 and sadly the bronze medal would be worth less than the postage to mail it to whoever bought it from you.
Obviously these medals have nostalgic value and the Jesse Owens 1936 Olympic Gold Medal sold at auction for $1.5 million USD
Not everyone won a gold in Nazi Germany in front of Hitler though, so you can be guaranteed that some random-ass medal in archery would pull down significantly less. So let's look again into how much do the athletes get paid?
The answer is that it depends on the country you are playing for. Since the Olympics don't pay anything at all the individual countries make up their own pay scale and you might be surprised to find out that the wealthier countries that win a bunch of medals every Olympics pay pretty poorly compared to those that rarely, if ever, win any medals at all.
For example, the United States pays $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver, and a mere $15,000 for bronze. Canada, Australia, and Great Britain pay significantly less. I can't even find any information on how much China pays - maybe you just get social credit points or something.
The best countries to be from if you are going to compete in the Olympics might surprise you as the top 2 are Singapore ($787,000 for a gold) and Kazakhstan ($250,000 for a gold.) Don't look for Singapore to be going broke due to medal payout anytime soon though because the small island nation has only ever won 5 medals in the history of the Olympics and only one of them was a gold for 100 meter butterfly in 2016.
So finding out this information kind of opened my eyes as to why the USA's men's basketball team doesn't seem to field the best players that the sport actually has to offer. While us normal people would love the opportunity to win nearly $38,000 for playing a few games that are almost certainly going to be easier than the normal games we would play in our leagues, the top talent in the NBA make that much money per week just to sit at home and watch Netflix.
National pride isn't exactly at its highest point in the USA at the moment so I guess it isn't all that surprising that the basketball multi-millionaires decided to sit this one out.