For the first time ever, gold medal winners at the Olympic Games this summer will receive official prize money.

Proving you are the best of the best in your sport in front of the watching world will earn you a rather handy $50,000 in Paris, something that has never happened before in the 124-year history of the modern games.

But there’s a twist. This prize money is not coming from the people who run the games – the International Olympic Committee – it is coming from World Athletics. And that means it is only track and field athletes who will be in line to receive the cash.

This move has caused controversy on two fronts.

The associations that run the other sports – and there are obviously plenty of them – are livid that World Athletics has gone rogue by making a unilateral decision like this, which does, of course, pressure them into following suit.

And the fact that World Athletics also announced that they will start rewarding silver and bronze medallists in four years’ time in Los Angeles has only served to further inflame tensions.

But even more than the other associations, this move by World Athletics has angered the puritans who have crawled out of the woodwork over the last few days decrying the way this has polluted the Games with financial greed.

They have claimed that prize money goes against the spirit and philosophy of the Olympics, which is supposed to be about athletes competing for the love of the sport, not because they want a pay cheque.

Many of the people we will be watching running, jumping, swimming, hitting and throwing things this summer will be millionaires

Well, I’m sorry, but that ship sailed a long time ago. Sitting up there on that financial moral high ground may have made sense if everyone who takes part in the Games were still amateurs, but that hasn’t been the case for a very long time.

And it’s not just that some Olympians earn a decent living from their sport either. It goes way beyond that, to the extent that many of the people we will be watching running, jumping, swimming, hitting and throwing things this summer will be millionaires. Multi-millionaires, in fact.

So there is no way we can pass off the Olympics as a simple, modest contest for athletes who run fast because they like the feeling of wind in their hair. That may have been how it started, but it most definitely isn’t how it has ended up.

Another point that needs making to these people who feel the move by World Athletics is bringing about the death of the Olympics is this: prize money for winners has been there for decades.

It has never been officially recognised, it has never been called “prize money” and it doesn’t come from the IOC or any of the individual sporting bodies. But governments across the globe have been offering ‘incentives’ to their athletes to bring home medals for a long time.

These financial rewards range from as little as a few thousand dollars all the way up to a quarter of a million and beyond, so it’s pretty hard for the purists to say athletes who win medals have not seen any benefits to their bank accounts. And that’s before we get into the world of marketing, sponsorships and endorsements...

It is, of course, nice to believe that the Olympics is a small, community event where sportsmen and women come together to celebrate their love for their disciplines. But the reality is that money, finance and commercialisation have long been an intricate and inseparable part of those famous five circles.

All World Athletics have done is make it all a little bit more honest and open.


A meteoric rise

Last season, Cole Palmer had not scored a league goal in his career. This season he is top of the Premier League scoring charts with 20 goals and counting.

It’s quite a sensational rise to prominence for the 21-year-old, and fully justifies his unexpected decision to move to Chelsea from Manchester City where he would have been, at best, a bit part player.

Following his four goals against Everton last Monday, the young lad now finds himself in a three-way race for this season’s golden boot. He is currently tied in first place with, ironically, City’s Erling Haaland, while Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins is one behind on 19.

On current form you would probably put your money on one of the English lads to top the charts, although you cannot rule Haaland out as he is only one burst of form away from scoring five or six in 20 minutes.

Whether he wins the golden boot or not, this season has been incredible for Palmer who has been the one shining light in an otherwise mostly dismal Chelsea season.

Maybe Mauricio Pochettino should have a closer look at who else is rusting away in City’s reserves...


Not giving up

You’ve got to admire Dele Ali’s utter determination.

When he first burst on to the football scene more than a decade ago, many believed he would go on to be one of the greatest midfielders of his generation. And for a while it looked like that would happen as he put in some scintillating performances for Tottenham Hotspur and England.

But gradually his career went off the rails. He fell out of favour at Tottenham and moved to Everton who then loaned him out to Besiktas in a bid to try and regain some form. When that didn’t go according to plan you wondered if we had seen the last of Ali as a top-level player.

Then, last July, we found out what was really going on. In a remarkably frank interview, Ali said he had not only been battling injury over the last few years but also addiction and mental health issues. He even told the world he had been sexually abused as a six-year-old.

It was quite staggering that a player of his standing in the game was able to be so open, and he himself said afterwards that doing that interview was a major part of his healing process.

To be fair, we still haven’t seen much (actually nothing) of Ali on the pitch since the interview but that has been mostly down to more standard football injuries.

But despite everything he has gone through and is still going through, the lad still believes in himself. So much so that he told Sky Sports last week that he has daily reminder set on his mobile that says simply “World Cup 2026”.

That’s his aim. That’s what is driving him on. And I really, really like that level of determination.

Will it happen? Almost certainly not. He is still fighting his way back from injury, and England’s midfield is awash with great players these days. So he has a lot of hurdles to overcome and not a lot of time to overcome them.

But he still believes and, considering all the setbacks he has had, that has to be applauded.



Twitter: @maltablade

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