Armenian athletes winning gold medals in the upcoming Olympic Games in London would receive $700,000 each from Gagik Tsarukian, an influential businessman heading the National Olympic Committee, it was announced on Friday.
Derenik Gabrielian, the deputy chairman of the committee, said the hefty bonuses would be paid in addition to more modest financial rewards promised by the Armenian government.
The government has promised to pay Olympic champions 20 million drams ($48,000). Silver and bronze medalists would get 15 million drams and 10 million drams respectively. Their coaching staff and doctors would also be eligible for financial benefits.
Both the government and Tsarukian, who also leads the country’s second largest parliamentary party, set the same rewards head of the last Olympic Games held in Beijing in 2008.
Armenian athletes won only six bronze medals in the Chinese capital. Each of those medalists received a bonus from the state budget and a car from Tsarukian.
Gabrielian confirmed that the National Olympic Committee is aiming for a better Armenian performance at the London Olympics. “I think it would be great to win a gold medal,” he told reporters. “What we need today is not quantity but quality [of medals,] which needs to be improved.”
Armenia has won only one Olympic gold medal since independence. Its Olympic athletes representing the Soviet Union had been considerably more successful.
“Our guys should just demonstrate a strong will and not forget about patriotism for a second, not get frightened and enter the struggle because nobody is stronger than they,” said Gabrielian. “And if they lose, they should lose like real men.”
Armenia will participate in the London games with 25 athletes competing in ten sports. The country’s biggest medal hopes rest on weightlifting and wrestling, the two Olympic disciplines in which Armenians have excelled most.
One member of the Armenian team, the 30-year-old judo wrestler Armen Nazarian, will be trying his Olympic luck for a third time. “Two Olympics were unsuccessful for me,” Nazarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I don’t want this one to be like that. This will be my last Olympic Games. So I must do my best to win a medal.”