Rio Olympics: $10 million sprint – cashing in on winning gold

Story highlights

Dafne Schippers aiming to win double sprint gold in Rio

Victory in both could secure several lucrative sponsorship deals

Usain Bolt earns an estimated $32.5m in endorsements a year

Actual value of gold medals around $600

CNN  — 

What is the true value of an Olympic gold medal?

When Fanny Blankers-Koen swept a record four track and field gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, the mother-of-two – nicknamed the “Flying Housewife” – was given a new bicycle by the city of Amsterdam upon her return.

Almost seven decades later, fellow Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers takes to the track at the Rio Olympics as the favorite to win the 100 meters and 200 meters – with tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals at stake.

“She could be in line to become the face of the Rio Olympics,” said Dutch sports marketing expert Frank van den Wall Bake.

He estimated Schippers, a 200m world champion and a two-time 100m European champion, may be able to earn “tens of millions” of dollars in endorsements if she wins both events.

“These are the blue riband events of track and field and it would also be ground-breaking for a European,” added Van den Wall Bake, the creator of the Holland Heineken House and Holland’s top-flight Eredivisie soccer league.

Global superstar

Only two European women have won an Olympic sprint event since the Moscow Games of 1980.

“If she does this, she’ll become a global superstar, recognized all over the world and that brings in the big global sponsors and brands,” said Nigel Currie, owner of London-based sports marketing consultancy NC Partnership, in a phone interview.

He estimated the 24-year-old Dutchwoman, who is currently sponsored by Nike and five Dutch companies including dairy giant Campina and the country’s railways, may earn as much as $10 million over the next two years if she brings home two gold medals.

“New sponsors will be queuing up to sign her, because there are not that many globally recognizable female athletes,” said Currie.

Financial incentives

Although six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt makes $32.5 million in endorsements and prize money a year according to Forbes, most gold medallists don’t strike it rich.

Read: How much are the Rio gold medals worth?

“Some experts predicted any British gold medal winners at London 2012 would become a millionaire overnight but it just does not work that way,” said Tim Crow, chief executive of London-based sponsorship agency Synergy whose clients include Coca-Cola and Mastercard.

“Jess Ennis-Hill (the heptathlon champion), who was the poster girl of the Games, had had some lucrative sponsorships but she was doing well before that.

“Mo Farah (who won 5,000m and 10,000m gold) really broke through and is used by a lot of brands now. But even Greg Rutherford, who won a gold medal on “Super Saturday,” is on record as saying he’s actually struggled for sponsorship,” Crow said.

Rutherford lost his Nike contract in 2013, a year after he won long jump gold at his home Olympics.

While the British Olympic Association doesn’t pay its athletes a bonus for winning an Olympic medal, most associations do offer financial incentives.

The Dutch Olympic Committee will pay out 25,500 euros ($28,265) for each individual gold medal. The U.S. pays $25,000 while Canada rewards its gold medallists with $15,198.

The German Olympic Committee will pay each individual gold medallist 20,000 euros ($23,782). France and Belgium will hand out 50,000 euros ($59,456) while Italian Olympic champions can look forward to a cool 150,000 euros ($178,370).

And any individual gold medal winners from the decimated Russian Olympic team stand to make 4 million rubles ($60,000).


Olympic medals haven’t been made of pure gold since the 1908 London Games, when an ounce of the precious metal averaged $18.95, according to the National Mining Association in the U.S.

At 8.5 centimeters in diameter and with a dome of as high as 11 millimeters in the middle, the Rio medals are the largest in Olympic history, according to the, an online precious metals storage company based in the U.K.

With gold prices currently trading at around $1,330 per ounce, a medal made of solid gold would break the budget of any Olympic organizing committee.

If the Brazilian Mint would make each of the 812 gold medals to be handed out in Rio out of pure gold, “it would weigh almost one kilogram … and be worth $39,812 at current bullion prices,” the BullionVault said on its website.

Instead, the Rio gold medals weigh 500 grams and contain a mixture of gold (about 6 grams, or 1.2%), some copper (7.4%) and silver (91.4%). They’re worth around $600 each, according to the London-based World Gold Council. That’s $106 less than the London 2012 medals, when gold was trading higher.

Medal auction

Although the nominal value is now relatively low, some athletes have sold their medals for a hefty profit.

Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko auctioned his 1996 heavyweight gold medal for $1 million in 2012, with the proceeds going to the charitable Klitschko brothers foundation.

One of Jesse Owens’ 1936 gold medals fetched a record $1.47 million in 2013 when it was sold by the wife of a close friend of the American.

And a rancher from the western U.S. forked out $310,700 at a 2010 auction for the gold medal won by Mark Wells of the 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team.

For Schippers, meanwhile, money is the last thing on her mind as she prepares for the most important races of her life.

“I have a very good management team around me now and they help me, and they say a lot of ‘No’ to everybody,” she said at a press conference in July in London.