Russia set to increase prize money for Olympic medal winners

MOSCOW, June 25 (RIA Novosti) - Prize money awarded to Russian medal winners at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, should be increased, the Russian sports minister said on Wednesday.

The current rate for Russian athletes, who win Olympic medals, was set by a presidential order in 1996 and stands at $50,000 for the gold, $20,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.

"We would like to introduce amendments to this [presidential] order" as the current bonuses are "outdated," Vitaly Mutko, who was appointed the Russian Minister of Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy last month, said.

The minister, who is also Russia's soccer chief, added that the money awarded for medal wins is an additional motivation for Russia's top athletes and will be allocated from a special Olympic foundation.

The Olympic Games in China, which runs August 8-24, will be attended by some 500 Russian sportsmen and women, Mutko said, while the country's delegation at the sporting event will total some 900 representatives.

He said 474 Russian athletes had been accredited as members of the Olympic team and 148 for the Paralympics. Around 12 billion rubles (some $510 million) has been allocated for the athletes' training and preparation.

"We are pinning our hopes [to win medals] on sporting events such as boxing, wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, field and track, weightlifting, shooting and fencing," Mutko said.

The minister added that the Russian Olympic team will attend a ceremony in the Kremlin on July 29 prior to the leaving for Beijing.

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