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Olympic Medalists Set To Cash In At London 2012


No pain, no gain -- if Georgian wrestler Vladimir Khinchagashvili wins gold at London 2012, he could also pocket a bonus of more than $1 million.
From millions in local currency to brand-new cars, some athletes stand to cash in on Olympic gold -- and even silver and bronze.

Since 1992, when amateur status was abandoned as a requirement in most Olympic sports, athletes have been allowed to accept cash awards from their governments, national Olympic committees, or private foundations that are their partners.

Thanks to that decision, a Georgian athlete stands to win $1.2 million for bringing home gold from London. (UPDATE: Georgia denies this large cash prize.) Gold medalists from Tajikistan have been promised luxury cars. In a handful of countries, medalists will vie for the chance to win keys to a new apartment.

The cash bonuses vary widely from country to country, with some countries offering little more than the uniforms on their athletes' backs and others providing windfalls that can surpass average salaries many times over.

Azerbaijan is offering $510,000 to each of its gold medalists. Kazakhstan has promised $250,000 to each of its Olympic winners.

Such handouts are not just huge by local standards, they compare favorably to wealthier Western countries like the United States, which is offering $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.

Russia's government is offering about $125,000 to each gold medalist. But the regional government of Chelyabinsk Oblast says it will pay $1 million to any local athlete who brings home a gold medal. St. Petersburg officials promise their athletes about $33,000 for winning gold in London.

In Iran, the government is offering an $85,000 payment in gold coins to gold medalists. All Iranian medalists have also been promised a full government salary for the rest of their lives.

Some Iranian officials and organizations are offering cars, apartments, land, and extra gold coins to medalists.

Even Central Asia's most impoverished state is getting in on the action. Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon says his government will pay $63,000 to each Tajik gold medalist.

In addition, the mayor of Dushanbe is offering a one-bedroom apartment in the city to each gold medalist, along with additional cash awards for silver and bronze winners.

Tajikistan's largest private bank, Oriyonbonk -- which is owned by a relative of Rahmon -- made the promise of a luxury car to each gold medalist.

The opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, meanwhile, is offering all Tajik medalists a one-bedroom apartment in Dushanbe -- valued at between $30,000 and $80,000.

To the north in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, athletes will get $200,000 for gold, and Bishkek has announced a lifetime monthly stipend of $500 for all Kyrgyz medalists.

Turkmenistan, the only former Soviet republic that has not won an Olympic medal since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has not yet announced awards for 2012.

Belarus, whose president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, expects the country's athletes to come home with 25 medals, "five of them gold," will be paying $150,000 to those who reach the highest step on the winners' podium. In 2008, gold-medal winners were also given Minsk apartments. But no such promises have been made in 2012.

As for the hosts of the games, things don't look nearly so lucrative. That's because Great Britain is not offering any bonus awards -- although some British gold medalists could be paid $15,000 in royalties in exchange for allowing their image to be depicted on a postage stamp.

* Award provided by the Deutsche Sporthilfe private foundation
* Award provided by the Deutsche Sporthilfe private foundation

All RFE/RL broadcast services contributed to this report