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Ann -

It's a fair question, not sure how I feel about this. Another good question would be to understand the total comp sitaution for athletes from large industrialized countries that have their training subsidized by organizations like the USOC and the Chinese government. Which sports get paid before the medals, etc?

It's a long way from what we knew even back in the 80's. Does that sound like I'm a dinosaur or what? Look at the dinosaur talking about the boycott of the Moscow olympics, mommy!

PS - the top five factors determining a countries medal count coming up at the Capitalist later this week. Via the magic of technology, I'm can't even quote the day it will be up....

KD

Oh my goodness. I had (truly) no idea. The USA does this, too??

Unnecessary, and stinky-pooh moreover, IMHO.

Breaks my heart, to know of all the payoffs now considered acceptable for these Olympic athletes supposedly required to be "amateurs" until relatively recently. Probably the most distinguished individual performance by an American Olympic athlete was that of Jim Thorpe who was unfairly stripped of his 1912 Olympic medals (in actual violation of the challenge-rules at the time) for taking meal money while playing minor league baseball while a schoolboy at Carisle Indian School.

Overseas, Olympic athletes have always typically been professionals supported by the state. Here, any "amateur" doesn't stay that way long, if successful. They all cash in, one way or another; but don't believe any of them do it for the money. Don't care, myself, either way. Their achievements stand on their own merits, regardless of incentive or remuneration.

KD:

I'll be interested to hear your take on the top five factors ... whenever it magically appears.

Confession. As a boomer, hearing an x-er describe himself as a dinosaur just makes me smile. :)

Almost:

Couldn't have said it better!

Jim:

I have to cling to the idea that, despite the constant overpowering presence and influence of money, the olympics still transcend money. At least at some level.

Thanks all for the thoughts!

I’m going to put a different spin on this and say, “I can’t say that it’s always a bad idea to offer a performance bonus for a medal.”

It’s a full-time job to train for the Olympics, so it is unrealistic to expect that a world-class athlete will devote the amount of time required to win a medal just for the sheer love of the sport.

To add insult to injury, it’s a job you have to pay an outrageous amount of money to perform. Lost in the Bob Costas-induced haze is the story of how many parents who mortgaged their homes how many times to fund Junior’s Olympic dream.

Not all athletes win a medal, and not all medalists turn the metal into lucrative endorsements. The bonus that the US offers probably doesn’t even come close to covering the expenses incurred for most of these athletes, but at least it’s something. The US has a vested interest in medal performance at the Games (only the naïve would deny that our showing every four years is at least in part an advertisement for our country), and we *should* pony up a bonus for outstanding performance.

At the time I’m writing this, the US has 26 gold medals, which would mean $650K in bonuses, which is about half a percent of their expenses. Could that money be used for a better purpose? Hard to say.

As a sports fan, I’m pleased that a US athlete can get corporate sponsorship to support the training. I would be pained to see our country move to a centralized sports program that mimicked the Communist-bloc systems.

But I really dig the Belarus system: meat sausage for life. Homer Simpson would be pleased.

Elizabeth:

Thanks for presenting a different spin on the picture - your points and examples are great ones.

I think the way you frame it makes sense - positioning the dollars offered as a combination "thank you" with partial (very small partial, as you point out) reimbursement of the enormous investment it takes to compete at this level, rather than providing the motivation to compete hard (as I think some of the rest of us were seeing it), makes it easier to understand, and to swallow.

Great dialogue - all!

Thank-you sums are kind of already provided in the US Olympic program's sponsorships of training and such. Have no problem with cash prizes, but I sure couldn't justify them as a necessary advertisement for the country. Never noticed many people lining up to apply for Soviet, East German, Russian , or Chinese citizenship due to their Olympic prowess. On the other hand, I recall at least one American who took out Russian citizenship to play basketball on their team.

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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