Olympics-World Athletics' prize money at Paris Games goes against Olympic spirit-UCI chief

FILE PHOTO: David Lappartient, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI) attends a news conference on Afghan refugees at the World Cycling Center in Aigle, Switzerland, June 3, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

ANCIENT OLYMPIA (Reuters) - The decision by World Athletics to award prize money at the Paris 2024 Games goes against the Olympic spirit and solidarity among international federations, the head of cycling's global governing body (UCI) said on Tuesday.

Athletics became the first sport to offer prize money to Olympic champions when WA President Sebastian Coe announced last week that gold medallists in Paris will each earn $50,000.

The decision took other international federations by surprise.

"We really believe that this is not the Olympic spirit," UCI President David Lappartient told reporters on the sidelines of the Paris Olympics torch lighting ceremony.

"The proposal (by World Athletics) was not discussed. It was (announced) on the day of our mother organisation's meeting. It should have been on the agenda," he added.

"The Olympic spirit is to share revenues and have more athletes compete worldwide. Not only put all the money on the top athletes but spread the money.

"If we concentrate money on top athletes, a lot of opportunities will disappear for athletes all over the world."

The announcement by WA was met with a positive reaction from the world's leading athletes, with the $2.4 million prize pot to be split among the 48 gold medallists in Paris.

A total of $540 million was allocated to the 28 sports at the previous Games in Tokyo with World Athletics receiving the most at $40 million.

"We need to ensure we will have athletes tomorrow," said Jean-Christophe Rolland, who heads World Rowing.

"I fully respect the WA decision as long it concerns athletes from their sport but at the Olympic Games it is not about your sport but all sports," he said.

"I would appreciate if we had the discussion between us. This decision impacts not only athletes. It has other implications."

Lappartient and Rolland are not the first ones to be critical of the move, with Britain's five-time Olympic rowing champion Steve Redgrave calling it an unfair decision to other sports that cannot afford to do the same.

(Writing by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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