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More than Medals for China’s Olympic Stars

China’s best athletes have not only broken records but they’ve hauled in increasingly sizeable cash bonuses from central and local governments for their champion, medal-winning performances at Olympic events.

Between 1984, when China re-entered the Olympics arena, and the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the total amount of cash paid by central government sports authorities increased 57 times. By comparison, the nation’s per capita GDP during that period increased 34 times.

After the 2008 games, gold medal winners alone received a combined 350,000 yuan—the highest combined payout ever for the nation’s Olympics champions. China won more gold—fifty-one medals—than any other country at the games.

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, sports authorities handed out a total 6,000 yuan in bonuses to gold medal winners. Per capita GDP that year was 695 yuan.

Shooter Xu Haifeng, China’s first Olympic gold medalist, earned the highest award of 9,000 yuan, equivalent to US$4,000 at that time, for winning gold in the 50-meter pistol event at the 1984 games.

A spokesman for the national athletics authority, the State General Administration of Sports, said July 14 he could not yet divulge the payment scheme for medal winners who shine at this summer’s Olympics in London.

Beyond central government monetary rewards, Chinese athletes can also receive bonuses from local governments and corporate sponsors in the form of cash, houses, and cars.

In Hong Kong, Olympics athletes can receive funds from sports institutions and the private sector as well.

The Hong Kong Sports Institute and Hang Seng Bank said in May they would together provide HK$3 million to gold medal winners who hail from the city, HK$1.5 million to silver medal winners, and HK$750,000 to bronze medalists.

Huang Chen is a Caixin staff reporter.

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