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Money For Medals: How Sochi Athletes Stand To Cash In

It pays to win at the Olympics -- at least in theory.

Some athletes competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics stand to gain tens of thousands -- or even hundreds of thousands -- of dollars if they bring home a gold medal.

The catch is, some of the highest cash bonuses are being offered by countries that are not expected to win any gongs at Sochi, since winter sports such as skiing or curling are not their specialty.

The biggest pot of winnings is being offered by Azerbaijan. Baku is sending a total of four athletes to Sochi, but a national Olympic committee official has told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service that none is expected to climb on the podium. In case one of them does, however, he or she will receive nearly $510,000 for a gold medal, $255,000 for silver, and $130,000 for bronze.

In neighboring Armenia, awards include $30,000 for gold medals, $20,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.

Neither of these two countries won a medal at the last Winter Olympics, in 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.

Kazakhstan, which won one Olympic medal in Vancouver, is to award gold medalists $250,000 and silver recipients $150,000. Runners-up stand to cash in, too -- $75,000 is promised for athletes in third, fourth, fifth, and sixth places.

Awards in both Belarus and Ukraine include $150,000 for gold medals, $75,000 for silver, and $50,000 for bronze. Belarus received three medals in Vancouver, Ukraine none.

Medalists from the Olympics host country, Russia, will be awarded prize money of $113.000 for gold, $71,000 for silver, and $42,000 for bronze.

The country's athletes earned 15 medals in Vancouver, including three golds -- the worst ever gold tally for Russia since it started competing on its own at Lillehammer 1994 following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The amounts offered compare very favorably to wealthier Western countries like the United States, which is promising $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.

In Germany, the Deutsche Sporthilfe private foundation is paying between $2,000 for an eighth place and up to $20,000 for gold medals.

And the Canadian Olympic Committee is to disburse $9,000 per gold, $6,800 for silver, and $4,500 for bronze.

It's not just a Winter Olympic phenomenon. From tens of thousands of dollars to luxury cars and new apartments, athletes from Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and other countries in the former Soviet Union cashed in on medals they received during the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani, Armenian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian Services contributed to this report