The Olympic Price Tag

High-flying gymnasts, fish-like swimmers, and countries you forgot existed until the opening ceremonies began. Yes, I’m talking about the Olympics! With just under a week left, I thought it would be fun to take look at the money involved in the worldwide athletic event. I was surprised at what I found!

How much is a medal worth?

The monetary value of the medals comes down to the materials they are constructed of. Deadspin broke down the composition of each medal in a recent post.

Spoiler alert, folks, the gold medal is not solid gold. Instead, the gold medal is almost entirely silver with a little bit of copper added and it is gilded in 24-karat gold. It's is worth around $650. The silver medal is made with the same amount of silver as the gold medal and includes some copper as well, but it is not gilded in gold. The silver medal would fetch around $330. The bronze medal is only worth about $5, as it is mostly made from copper, zinc and tin.

If you ask any Olympic medalist how much their medal is worth, they’d probably answer, “Priceless.”

How much do Olympic athletes earn?

You might be surprised to hear that many of the Olympic athletes do not get paid for competing in the Olympics. Private donors sometimes pay for travel expenses, but there is no set salary for Olympic athletes coming from the United States. However, some high profile athletes, like Michael Phelps, earn money from sponsorship and endorsement deals.

It’s a different story for athletes who win medals. In the United States, Olympic medalists are given a medal bonus from the U.S. Olympic Committee ranging from $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. This is a modest payout compared to Italy, the country with the highest medal bonus, at $182,400 for gold.

Winning a medal, then, is a form of income and athletes must pay taxes on their winnings. The tax bill for a gold medal falls just below the $9,000 mark, while the silver and bronze come in at $5,300 and $3,500. 

How much does it cost to host the Olympics?

Of course, the largest sum of money spent at the Olympics isn’t the bonuses paid to medalists. The host country dumps an enormous amount of cash into facilities and security for the games. London originally planned on a $5 billion expense for this year’s festivities, but the number is now reaching nearly $15 billion. Yikes! Some may argue that the expense is worth it, with the opportunity to create jobs and showcase your country, but for someone like me who struggles to justify an $8 movie ticket it’s hard to see past the number of zeros on the Olympic price tag.

What is your favorite part of the Olympics?

Kylie K.