The Olympic Games are always awash in data visualizations. This summer in Rio, The New York Times put out dozens of graphics showing athletes split across time and the Rio website kept people up to date on medal counts, athletes, and every possible subdivision of the data they could display.
Over the sixteen days, watching the athletes bring home gold and glory, I wondered how much money each athlete gets for winning their event. How much is a gold medal worth and does it vary? Although the Olympic Committee does not give out prize money, many nations give athletes bonuses that vary drastically in amount and depend on the type of medal they bring home.
To portray this drastic difference, I plotted the relative amounts each nation paid to their gold medal athletes in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. Each bar is one nation, labeled with its ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 country code, with its height showing how much the nation spent on prize money for all its gold medalists. The area of each bar is split into vertical strips showing how much money each athlete received. Since the prize money is shown on a linear scale, comparisons can be made easily between different countries. For example, the United States (USA) and Russia (RUS) have nearly identical totals, but individual Russian athletes were given more than double the prize money compared to American athletes. Another striking result was when nations who earned one gold medal spent more than nations who had several gold medalists. The single gold medalist in Singapore (SGP) received more prize money than all ten of the French (FRA) gold medalists combined, and the single gold medalist in Azerbaijan (AZE) earned a little under the prize money given to all Australian (AUS), South African (ZAF), and Canadian (CAN) gold medalists combined.
It was interesting to see this side of the Olympics, a side rarely discussed during or even after the event. I encourage you to explore the differences between nations and see how the medal counts and prize money varies. But no matter what the athletes receive, I’m sure it’s just icing on the cake compared to being crowned the best in your sport on a global scale…that is the real prize.
Gold Medals Earned & Prize Money Given (in USD) by Different Countries in the Rio 2016 Olympics