There’s not much gold in a gold medal. It’s one of those famous misnomers, like a peanut not actually being a nut and how we drive on parkways and park on driveways.
Since gold is expensive (duh) and making a substantially-weighted pure-gold medal for all 98 winners at the Winter Olympics would cost more than $2 million, a combination of metals is used to create Sochi golds. (Then again, if the Games really cost $50 billion, shelling out a few million for pure gold medals would have been a write-off.)
The Sochi gold medal weighs a total of 531 grams, which is about the same weight as your standard plastic bottle of water. Of those 531 grams, only six are actual gold. The rest is made of silver. Using the current rates of both precious metals, the street value of a gold medal is approximately $548.
(Photo credit: USA Today Sports Images)
Of course, the value of a gold medal is purely intrinsic. It’s important because of its meaning and symbolism, not because it can be melted down to make to make a pair of moderately-pried earrings.
That’s not to say there isn’t a financial reward in winning gold. Most countries give bonuses to athletes who get to the top of the medal podium. AIPS, a global sports journalism association, tallied such bonuses and found the five countries giving the most.
1. Kazakhstan — $250,000
2. Latvia — $192,000
3. Italy — $191,000
4. Ukraine — $150,000
5. Australia — $126,000
There’s a reason these countries can be so generous. As of Thursday afternoon, none had a gold medal winner in Sochi.
Gold-medal winning athletes from the United States like Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson get a $25,000 bonus from the USOC. (With taxes, it comes to about $15,000.) With four American gold medalists so far, that means a total of $100,000 will be paid out, a figure that’s far less than individual athletes from some countries will receive.
Still, Canadians don’t even see that much. For winning a gold medal in hockey, Sidney Crosby would get $18,000 from Canada. The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar makes $146,341 each game during the NHL season.
The Olympics’ overall medal leader, Norway, offers no prize for gold.