In 1964, there were rumors of athletes getting cash for wearing a certain company’s shoes. And the athletes from the US would also express disbelief at the financial support the athletes from the USSR received. But on the whole, only amateurs were allowed at the Olympic Games.
At the IAAF World Championships, now taking place in Beijing, tens of thousands of dollars are at stake. According to this article from the blog, Around the Rings, gold medalists take home $60,000, while those for silver and bronze receive payments of $30,000 and $20,000 respectively. An athlete who finishes as low as eighth picks up $4,000 for his or her efforts.
There are also financial rewards for team competitors.
Seems like a decent chunk of change to run around on a track. But only a handful of world-class athletes make the big bucks. Nick Symmonds won’t even be in Beijing as he is protesting the demands of the USA Track and Field organization that requires him, he feels to put on Nike wear at the expense of his personal sponsor Brooks. It is through this protest Symmonds hopes to highlight the plight of the average American professional athlete, who despite being a top ten runner thrower or jumper earn less than $15,000 a year, as explained in this New York Times piece.