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Track Will Be First Sport to Pay Olympic Gold Medalists

Track and field will be the first sport to give direct cash payments for Olympic gold medals, the sport’s federation announced Wednesday.

For decades, the Olympics trumpeted the ideal of amateurism. It took pride in being a competition where elite athletes battled for nothing more than the joy of representing their country.

Amateurism was touted as the best way to keep sports clean, fair and honest. “Professionalism” was looked down on as vulgar and mercenary. But the notion of amateurism at the Olympics has eroded over the last three decades, as professional athletes have been allowed to participate.

Now World Athletics, the global governing body for track and field, will break new ground by making payments to competitors more straightforward: All individual gold medalists in the sport at the Paris Games this summer will receive $50,000. (Winning relay teams will share the money.) The federation said it would begin paying silver and bronze medalists lesser amounts in 2028.

The federation president, Sebastian Coe, a two-time gold medalist in the amateur era, called the decision “a pivotal moment for World Athletics and the sport of athletics as a whole, underscoring our commitment to empowering the athletes and recognizing the critical role they play in the success of any Olympic Games.”

Mr. Coe is considered a leading candidate to be the next president of the International Olympic Committee, and could perhaps pave the way for an expansion of the payments to other sports.

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