With just over 100 days until the Paris Olympic Games, World Athletics has revealed a groundbreaking plan.

World Athletics, the international governing body for athletics (including track and field), will become the first international federation in history to award prize money to athletes at an Olympics. At the Paris Games, gold medal-winning athletes in the 48 track and field events will receive $50,000 each from World Athletics for their accomplishments. Relay teams will be awarded $50,000 as a group and will split the money between its members.

The payments come from a prize pot of $2.4 million that the federation has set aside. Those funds come from the revenue share allocation World Athletics receives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“The introduction of prize money for Olympic gold medalists is a pivotal moment for World Athletics and the sport of athletics as a whole, underscoring our commitment to empowering the athletes,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said in a statement on April 10.

“It is important we start somewhere and make sure some of the revenues generated by our athletes at the Olympic Games are directly returned to those who make the Games the global spectacle that it is.”

In follow-ups with reporters, Coe — a two-time Olympic gold medalist in his athletic heyday — emphasized that track and field athletes make up 20% of Olympic athletes and that recognizing their champions is to highlight their importance.

What about silver and bronze medalists?

The announcement details that only Olympic gold medalists in Paris will receive the $50,000 prizes. However, World Athletics notes its commitment to extending the financial incentive to silver and bronze medalists at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. The exact numbers will be released at a later date.

Why is World Athletics’ announcement such a big deal?

This marks the first time in the 128-year history of the modern Olympic Games that an international governing body is directly paying athletes. The initiative is truly the first of its kind.

Aren’t the Olympics for amateurs? How is this allowed?

For almost its entire history, yes. In fact, Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games, once warned against the “spirit of gain and professionalism” and that professionalism essentially threatened the Olympics’ existence.

Until 1986, the IOC’s Olympic Charter strictly stated that athletes competing in the Games must be amateurs, meaning that they couldn’t make money through sports. Most famously, this meant that Jim Thorpe, who won gold medals in the 1912 Olympic decathlon and pentathlon, was stripped of his medals for making money while playing semipro baseball a year earlier. Similarly, Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn,” was barred from the 1932 Los Angeles Games for violating his status as an amateur because he’d received money for competing.

But after a decades-long long battle, the Olympic Charter of 1986 finally welcomed "all the world's great male and female athletes to participate,” regardless of amateur status. The dam then truly broke at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when the Dream Team — comprised of Michael JordanCharles BarkleyPatrick Ewing and other NBA stars — squashed the notion of Olympic amateurism once and for all.

Now, modern Olympic athletes range from celebrity multi-millionaires like Simone Biles and LeBron James to unknown high school and college students. So, World Athletics’ payment plan is well within the rules.

In Coe’s remarks, he encapsulated the rapid changes the Olympics have undergone.

“My view of the world has changed,” Coe said. “It’s really important that, where possible, we create a sport that is financially viable for our competitors. This is the beginning of that.”

How did athletes get paid before?

Top athletes — think Simone BilesKatie LedeckyNoah Lyles — make millions of dollars via lucrative sponsorship deals. But this is the exception, not the rule. Of the 10,500 Olympic athletes who will compete in Paris, the great majority are far from household names and lack such endorsements.

These athletes have long relied on prize money for winning international competitions. At the Olympics, these payments have recently come from national governing bodies. For example, U.S. gold medalists each received $37,500 from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) at the Tokyo Olympics. Athletes earned $22,500 for silver medals and $15,000 for bronze.

The numbers vary by nation. For example, Canadian gold medalists earned $16,000 for wins in Tokyo. Japanese athletes received $45,000. Olympic medalists from Great Britain, meanwhile, earned a stipend of $36,000 per year to train and compete.

But in no country are those gold medals worth more than in Singapore, where gold medalists are awarded $734,890 ($1 million Singapore Dollars).

But these initiatives remained on a country level. World Athletics’ plan is the first time a payment system applies to all athletes in an Olympic sport, regardless of country.

What are athletes saying?

Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis has been outspoken in his support of the decision, which he believes sets a positive precedent for future Olympics.

Gabby Thomas, a two-time Olympic medalist sprinter, praised the move during the Team USA Media Summit in New York on April 16.

"I think this is amazing, Thomas said. "We've been talking about paying athletes for their hard work for a long time now. The times are changing.

"This also levels the playing field. We're not receiving a lot. This is done off of hopes and dreams and effort, so to see track and field making  a difference in that way is remarkable. I can't wait to see the other sports follow suit."

Along a similar line, India’s Neeraj Chopra, who won the Tokyo Olympic gold medal in the javelin throw, called the program “a good start” in an interview with The Times of India.

Michael Johnson, who won four gold medals as a U.S. sprinter, said the decision was “long overdue.”

And Noah Lyles, the U.S. star who has declared his intention to pursue four Olympic gold medals in Paris, sent this cryptic tweet out moments after World Athletics’ announcement:

What is the IOC saying?

In a statement released after World Athletics’ announcement, the IOC emphasized that it distributes 90% of its revenue, including $4.2 million “to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.”

“It is up to each International Federation and National Olympic Committee to determine how to best serve their athletes and the global development of their sport,” the statement added.

The IOC’s self-published finance structure outlines this structure.

Going forward, a domino effect could ensue as the athletic world reacts.

The Paris Olympic medals already feature pieces from the Eiffel Tower, and now, track and field golds come with an added incentive.