Tycoons offer Olympic winners big cash

Russia's business heavyweights have promised Olympic contestants cash prizes worth millions of dollars if they succeed in bringing home medals. The enticing incentives are in addition to the Russian government's prize of up to one hundred thousand euros f

The Olympics has always been about more than sport. It’s very much a vehicle for politics and big business.

The Russian government has pumped an estimated $500 million dollars into preparations for the 2008 Games.

The budget for athletic infrastructure has soared from a couple of hundred thousand dollars in 2002 to around one billion dollars.

With the government’s sports spending hitting record highs, business leaders are eager to play their part.

Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group plans to pay winning members of the CSKA teams from 125,000 dollars for a gold medal, to 42,000 for a bronze.

Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov has topped that – offering up to one billion dollars to victorious wrestlers.

But to secure the titanic sum will require a truly Olympic effort – the winners must take 10 gold medals out of 18. If the haul is less than ten the prize falls to $500 thousand dollars.

The participation of Russian billionaires doesn’t stop there.

A fund to support Olympic players created by eleven leading businessmen, including Vladimir Potanin, Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich is distributing grants to finance the future activities of sporting heroes.

Of course it’s not just about giving. Often linked to the medal payouts are advertising contracts – and sponsors hope the athlete's name will promote sales at home and abroad.

Evidence, if any were needed, that sport and business are profitable partners.