‘We work just as hard’: Team GB swimmers want Olympic prize money

<span>Britain's Tom Dean reacts in disbelief after winning gold in the men's 200m freestyle at the Tokyo Games.</span><span>Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Britain's Tom Dean reacts in disbelief after winning gold in the men's 200m freestyle at the Tokyo Games.Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s double Tokyo 2020 champion Tom Dean has joined a chorus of calls for prize money to be paid at the Olympic Games after track and field athletes were offered $50,000 if they win gold in Paris.

Dean, who became the first male British swimmer to win two golds at the same Games in 113 years at Tokyo, said that people were shocked that he earned ­nothing for his Olympics exploits – even though swimming is one of the most popular sports at the Games.

“When I tell people that we don’t receive any prize money from ­winning Olympic gold medals, that is always a shock and a surprise to everyone,” he said. “Whereas we do in the world championships, the ­Europeans. It’s just the biggest screen, in front of the most people, millions and millions of viewers, but you don’t see anything in return.

Related: Coe defends World Athletics’ move to award $50,000 to Olympic gold winners

“I think it is quite tough when someone who has been doing track and field, who has worked just as hard as you for just as many years, is getting this financial reward for winning medals. It’s [a] pretty obvious contrast.”

Dean, who was speaking after being named in a 33-strong Team GB swimming squad for Paris on the eve of 100 days to go until the opening ceremony in Paris, said he hoped World Athletics’ decision would prompt changes across the Olympic movement.

“When we swim at the Olympics we have millions of viewers. We are the ones doing the work, it would be great to see something back for that,” he said. “Obviously, people don’t do it for money. But I do hope what has happened in athletics will have a trickle-down effect in other sports and hopefully swimming.”

Dean’s teammate Matt ­Richards, who was also part of Britain’s 4x200m freestyle relay-winning team in Tokyo, also urged the International Olympic Committee to spend more of the $7.6bn (£6.1bn) revenues it ­generated in the last Olympic cycle on prize money.

“It’s crazy money, big business,” he said. “When you look at that, you go: ‘Well, it makes a lot of money but then the athletes aren’t actually going to be able to win any of that,’” he said. “If the IOC steps up and [says]: ‘We’ll just put a blanket amount, this is how much the medals are worth across all sports’ that would make a lot of athletes a lot happier.’”

Richards also warned that some athletes may be tempted to join the Enhanced Games, which is offering $1m to athletes if they break a world record – and will allow them to take banned performance-enhancing drugs when it launches next year. He said: “To protect the sport, and to protect the Olympics and protect everything that’s great about what we do, the governing bodies like World Aquatics and the IOC are going to have to start putting some money up to the athletes to keep them from straying over to things like that.

“There needs to be some conversations about how we better support athletes at the Olympics because it’s not an amateur Games any more. There are basketball players there who are earning hundreds of millions a year. Footballers, tennis players, golfers are in the same position.”

The IOC argues that it ­redistributes 90% of all its income, with much of it going to National Olympic Committees such as the British Olympic ­Association and to ­international federations, to invest back into sport. World Athletics has used $2.4m of that IOC money as prize money at the Paris Games.

Nonetheless, Duncan Scott, who will be trying to add to his tally of six Olympic medals in the pool this summer, said that more needed to be done. “It’s something that the whole sport wants to see. I think financially something needs to change in our sport, whether it’s at worlds or elsewhere.”

However, World Athletics’ decision to award prize money in Paris was criticised by cycling’s ­governing body, the UCI, which said it went against the Olympic ethos and solidarity among international federations. “We really believe that this is not the ­Olympic spirit,” said the UCI ­president, David ­Lappartient, at the lighting of the Games flame in Greece on Tuesday­. “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.”