For most Olympic athletes, winning a medal is enough. There is the prestige and pride that comes with taking home the gold, silver or bronze medal. But the International Olympic Committee itself doesn’t give any monetary prizes to go along with the medals.
Instead, to help motivate their athletes, countries have come up with different ways to reward them for winning medals. In the U.S., Olympians receive $37,500 for winning a gold medal, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze (prizes are split up amongst all members in team competitions).
Sometimes, though, a country or corporation will come up with a really unique gift for Olympic medal winners. Here are the craziest ones we could find.
Free sausage for life
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a local sponsor offered the Belarus women’s basketball team free sausage for life if they won a medal, according to Reuters.
“Once or twice a month, we will provide athletes with some of our products,” the director of the Belatmit meat producing company said. “Naturally, we will take into account the athletes’ tastes and choose with them the sort of goods they want.”
Unfortunately, the Belarus women’s basketball team ended up coming in sixth place, so they missed out on a lifetime’s supply of sausage.
BMWs and Audis
Russia goes all out for its Olympic medalists. Since at least 2008, Russia has awarded each of its Olympic medalists at the Summer and Winter Games either a BMW or an Audi. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, athletes received a BMW X6 for winning gold, a BMW X5 for winning silver, and a BMW X4 for winning bronze.
However, not every Olympic athlete is happy to win a luxury car. One Olympian was allegedly caught immediately trying to sell their car online in 2016 (via AP). Others have criticized the cars because many athletes can’t afford to pay the taxes on such an expensive prize.
A meatball restaurant
Okay, so we’ve heard about free sausage for life, but what about winning your own meatball restaurant?
That’s exactly what Indonesian athletes Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu received when they won the gold medal in women’s doubles badminton at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
They also received five cows, a house, and the equivalent of $349,000 USD in cash (via Reuters).
Indonesia may have given its medalists some cows, but Russia once gifted one of its medalists a racehorse!
In 2016, Russian wrestling gold medalist Abdulrashid Sadulaev received a racehorse, along with the equivalent of $93,000 USD in cash, from the head of the Republic of Dagestan (via AP).
Let’s just hope he didn’t have to sell his free BMW to provide the horse with a stable.
Free tattoos for life
Sausage, BMWs, and racehorses — these are fleeting things. But a tattoo lasts forever.
The lucky recipient of free tattoos for life is Hong Kong’s Edgar Cheung Ka-long, who took home a gold medal for fencing at the 2020 Tokyo Games. In addition, he received the equivalent of $960,000 USD, free furniture and home décor, and free train rides for life (via Coconut).
The free rides will come in handy whenever he wants to go get inked.
Free tattoos are nice, but South Korea might just offer the greatest medal incentive of all: military exemption.
Military service is mandatory for men in South Korea. They must enlist by age 28 and serve for 18 months (women may volunteer but are not required to serve). For male athletes, military service can bring their careers to a halt, making exemption a tempting prize. South Korea has been offering military exemption to Olympic medalists since the 1970s.
Winning an Olympic medal doesn’t get athletes 100% out of the military in South Korea, though. They still have to complete four weeks of basic training and, after a 42-month period of continuing their athletic careers, have to serve in the reserves for the next six years (via The Washington Post).