May 29, 2024
Money

Tennis greats call for Olympic medallists across all sports to get prize money


World Athletics announced earlier this month that it would be the first sport to offer Olympic prize money in Games history at Paris 2024, with winners in the 48 disciplines to receive 50,000 US dollars (£39,400).

Lord Coe, the federation’s president, said he was confident the International Olympic Committee would “share in the principle” of track and field gold medal winners earning prize money in Paris – but admitted his organisation had not discussed the historic move with the International Olympic Committee.

Tennis – 2015 Wimbledon Championships – Day Six – The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Martina Navratilova says the days of amateurism in the Olympic Games and athletes not being paid are over (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Navratilova, the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Madrid.

“The Olympics have always been the biggest sports event and the athletes were the only ones not making money.

“Everybody was making money but the athletes. So I’m glad that’s changing because for some countries that’s a massive amount of money.

“For some of them it’s a drop in the bucket, but for some of them it’s a step in the right direction.

“Why shouldn’t they make money? Being a top athlete now is a full-time job. The days of amateurs have gone, thank you.”

Becker won singles gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, four years after the sport had returned to the Games following a 64-year absence.

He said: “When I listened to Sebastian Coe about prize money I said: ‘Finally someone is coming with the times’.

“Sport today is a full-time job, whether you’re a track and field athlete. a swimmer or in all the other sports represented at the Olympics.

“Everybody makes money off their back, so the athletes should not come last.”

Tennis/Wimbledon Becker
Boris Becker won tennis gold at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Navratilova, like Becker a Laureus Academy member, also reiterated her objection to Saudi Arabia hosting the next three editions of the WTA finals.

The 2024 season-ending finals will take place in Riyadh in November, featuring the top eight singles players and doubles teams, and the event will also be played in Saudi in 2025 and 2026.

“We’re going to Saudi Arabia which is about as big a change as you can make, except for maybe going to North Korea,” said Navratilova, who says she has no plan to work at the tournament as a pundit.

“Chris Evert and I have made our views clear on that, but the players have made their choices. We’ll see how things work out.

“I heard a players say they ‘don’t want to be political’. Going to Saudi is about as political you can get.

“Welcome to sport. Sports is political and has been at the forefront of social change. I don’t see how anything happens there without the blessing of MBS (Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi ruler).

“He decides what goes and what doesn’t. We’re a bit egotistical to think we can make a difference, but who knows?

“The players have to honour that, they’re the ones competing. We’re not affected by it. We’re not going there to play.”

::The 25th Laureus World Sports Awards take place on Monday evening in Madrid. To find out more, and follow the ceremony, visit www.laureus.com





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