What do the Olympic Games mean for an athlete? Some people may argue that it is all about the honour of representing one’s nation on the world stage. Others might say that it is about competing against the other top athletes in a sport, to see how they measure up. But what about competing for money? Offering a bonus to medal winners sounds like a reasonable idea, and sure enough, most countries pay out at least a nominal amount to their successful athletes. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly though, is the fact that Taiwan apparently pays out the third highest amount of money to gold medal winners out of all countries in the world, with NT$20 million, ranking only behind Singapore and Indonesia! In addition, the NT$7 million paid to bronze medal winners is higher than the prize money awarded to all other countries’ gold medal winners, besides Singapore and Indonesia! So, should the gold medal cash prize be increased by fivefold to NT$100 million, silver to NT$80 million and bronze to NT$50 million, and fourth place rewarded with no medal NT$20 million? Of course, the billionaire Terry Gou is quite welcome to pay athletes out of his own extremely deep pockets, but unsurprisingly that doesn’t seem to be something he is offering.
Training and competing in a sport to an elite standard good enough to qualify for the Olympics is not something that most people can afford to do if they also need to make a living besides that provided by their sports. It seems to make sense then that athletes who are representing their countries should be suitably rewarded for their perseverance and hard work. However, Taiwan already pays out more prize money than almost every country on earth, making winning Taiwanese athletes instant millionaires. Therefore, what reasonable justification is there for massively increasing the prize money, well beyond any other country? Perhaps a much more sensible policy would be investing more money into the grassroots development of sports in Taiwan. Besides, do Paralympics athletes get rewarded so handsomely? They are also proudly representing their nation, and need to train long and hard to compete at the Olympics, so in the interest of equality it is only fair that they should receive the same cash rewards, isn’t it? Likewise for athletes who qualify and compete, but who do not win a medal, shouldn’t they also be rewarded for all their hard work if we are trying to send the message that winning isn’t everything?