(From The Moscow Times)
If you were to melt it down, the real value of a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics would probably just scrape $200.
But the Russian amateur athletes topping the podiums at the games -- which start at exactly 8:08 p.m. Beijing time on Friday -- will be hoping for a lot more.
For each gold medal won, the government has pledged to stump up 100,000 euros, and individual sports clubs are adding thousands of euros more. Ten of the country's richest men, including Roman Abramovich, Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Potanin, have also clubbed together to create a $14 million bonus pot.
While the hefty state payouts often dwarf the awards being offered by other countries, Russian athletes rarely figure on the lists of the world's highest-earning sports stars. That looks likely to change this year.
Traditionally, the relation between sport and business is more one of patronage than partnership, meaning that sport clubs and personalities are often dependent on sugar daddies or state corporations, and Russian athletes miss out on the lucrative advertising contracts enjoyed by their well-heeled counterparts in Western Europe, America or East Asia.
Now, led by a wave of sporting success, …