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U.S. athletes praise Paris Games prize money plan

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American track and field athlete Tara Davis-Woodhall poses for a portrait during the Team USA media summit ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, at an event in New York, U.S., April 16, 2024. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

World Athletics’ (WA) plan to offer prize money to Olympic gold medallists is a much needed step in the right direction, said American track and field athletes, with the high costs of training and competition weighing on competitors.

WA President Sebastian Coe bucked 128 years of tradition when he said last week that the athletics governing body would pay gold medal winners in Paris $50,000, a move that athletes were quick to endorse.

“You can lose money in track and field as soon as you step out the door,” Tara Davis-Woodhall, the indoor world champion in long jump, told reporters this week at the Team USA Media Summit in New York.

Davis-Woodhall said even travelling to competitions presents a major financial burden for many athletes.

“If I don’t have a sponsorship, who’s going to pay for this? I’m going to go in debt like 100%,” said Davis-Woodhall, who won a silver medal at the 2023 world championships in Budapest. “It’s not a sustainable thing to do at all.”

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Under the WA plan, a $2.4 million prize pot will be split between the 48 athletics gold medallists at the Paris Games, which start on July 26.

Silver and bronze medal winners will also receive prize funds beginning at the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

“It’s about time,” said Olympic 200 metres silver medallist Kenny Bednarek. “You have athletes that work their butt off, blood, sweat and tears every single day, every single year. And, you know, some compensation is needed for them.”

Their remarks echoed the endorsement of United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland, who applauded the plan.

“Any time we can put resources in the hands of athletes, we should all celebrate,” Hirshland told reporters in New York on Monday.

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“We need more resources to get into the hands of athletes, so that they have both the ability to sustain themselves from a just day-to-day lifestyle perspective, but then also (to) continue to invest in their training.”

But the prize money plan has attracted plenty of criticism from other corners of international sport.

British Olympic Association chief Andy Anson told Sky Sports on Wednesday that World Athletics created a problem by moving unilaterally on the issue.

The head of cycling’s global governing body said on Tuesday that WA had gone against the Olympic spirit, while World Rowing head Jean-Christophe Rolland said he wished WA had discussion with other sports, saying the decision has “other implications.”

Twice Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser said he struggles to see how anyone could oppose the prize money.

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“I know athletes that have medalled at world championships are still working two jobs and living with a room mate,” the world record holder said.

“It’s just the misconception that kind of lingers that athletes, regardless of what level you’re at, if you’re making the Olympics, that you’re that you’re financially secure and you are absolutely not.”

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Olympics

Olympics set to lose largest sponsor

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Russia’s ‘Friendship Games’ are politically motivated and violate Olympic Charter says IOC

After Paris 2024, the Olympic Games may lose Toyota, one of the Games’ main sponsors. Japan’s Kyodo News report that Toyota will end its sponsorship contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after this year’s games in Paris. The report cited unidentified sources close to the matter.

Toyota’s deal, announced in 2015, is believed to be the largest sponsorship agreement ever signed by the IOC. At the time, Japanese media reported that it would be worth $835 million.

According to Kyodo’s report, sources at Toyota were unhappy with how the IOC has used the money. The automaker believes the committee is not doing enough to support the athletes and promote the games.

During the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021, the IOC was criticized for not doing enough to support the mental health of its competitors.

Toyota sources told Kyodo that the company would like to continue sponsoring the Paralympic games. The IOC, however, requires its partners to support all its events. The main sponsors of the Olympic Games are classified as TOP – The Olympic Partners.

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Toyota is one of just 15 “TOP” sponsors as part of The Olympic Partner program. TOP is the highest level of sponsorship for the games and is limited to one per industry. Other brands include Coca-Cola, Samsung, Intel, Corona Cero, and Procter & Gamble.

Toyota pulled its commercials from the delayed 2021 Olympic games in Tokyo, and executives skipped the opening ceremonies in response to concerns about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Nigeria picks another Paris 2024 slot in table tennis

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The number of Nigerian table tennis players heading to Paris 2024 Olympic Games increased to three after Fatimo Bello defeated Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi 4-2 in the final of the second stage of the African Olympic Qualification Tournament at bK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.

Bello failed to qualify through the first stage of qualifiers after losing 4-1 to Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou but she returned stronger to win the sole slot in the second stage of qualifiers of the women’s singles.

Bello will join her compatriots – Olajide Omotayo and Offiong Edem to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Also, Algeria’s Mehdi Bouloussa who missed out from the first stage of the qualifiers atone for his defeat to pick the last slot in the men’s singles of the qualification tournament.

The qualified players from Kigali qualifiers include Nigeria’s trio of Bello, Omotayo and Edem while Cameroon’s Sarah Haffou picked her tickets to third Olympics appearance while Fabio Rakotoarimanana became the first Madagascan table tennis player to qualify for the Olympic Games after picking the second slot in the first stage of the qualifiers. Mehdi Bouloussa of Algeria secured the final slot in the men’s singles.

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Bouloussa, who narrowly lost 3-4 to Wassim Essid of Tunisia in the quarterfinal round of the first stage, returned to winning ways to pick the final ticket in the men’s singles of the qualification tournament.

To win the second stage of the qualifiers, Bouloussa defeated Saheed Idowu of Congo Brazzaville. (16-14, 11-4, 11-8, 11-4) to pick his maiden ticket to the Olympic Games.

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Nigeria all set for Olympic Day celebrations

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"Engaging in exercises promotes health fitness" Popoola highlights. Pictured is Nigeria's Tobi Amusan in the women's hurdles in Tokyo. GETTY IMAGES

Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) Secretary General Babatunde Popoola says the committee, in collaboration with the Nigeria Sport For All Commission, is set for the country’s 2024 edition of Olympic Day celebration on 29 June.

Olympic Day is an annual international event that takes place in the month of June that is aimed at people of all ages and abilities to experience the magic of the Olympic Games in their own communities. Popoola says the event highlights the benefits of physical activity and for people to learn about Olympic values and practise them in their everyday life.

“Engaging in exercises promotes health fitness for individuals; jogging and walking burns calories, tones muscles, shapes your body and helps de-stress the mind.” NOC’s Secretary General stated. 

“Olympic Day has always been celebrated by NOC with fanfare nationwide and this year’s programme will not be an exception as many states are already preparing to organise the programme. 

“The states that have so far registered to participate are Anambra, Gombe, Taraba, Bayelsa, Imo, and Ondo, while others are still being expected to indicate their interest in the programme,” he continued.

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