Ah, the Olympics. The thrill of competition. The self-satisfaction of personal achievement. The six-figure check.

Much has been made about state support of supposedly amateur athletes. But now, a new wrinkle has come up in the pay-for-play controversy: the incentive bonus.Some nations here for the Seoul games, particularly Third World countries hungry for prestige, are offering the green stuff to athletes who bring home the gold, bronze and silver.

And there's other booty for the winners: housing for them and their families, government jobs, even lifetime pensions.

While not many countries now offer bonuses, some fear an Olympic future where the ceremonial check and keys to the new Mercedes are handed to the victors along with their medals.

"There has always been rumors that some countries are paying athletes to win, but this is the first time they have gone public with it," said Robert Helmick, president of the USOC.

Consider the following. Malaysia's National Sports Council offers $30,000 for gold medal. A Filipino businessman has promised a free house and a million pesos, about $50,000, to the first gold winner from his country.

Saudi Arabian officials admit their athletes can count on a free education, a government job and a lifelong pension if they win.

Korea, anxious to shine before the hometown crowd, also is reported putting up a bounty for winners. According to the Seoul newspaper Kyung-hyang Sinmum, winners of the gold will get a six-figure cash bonus, an $800-a-month pension and exemption from military service.

There also is money for winners of lesser medals and marathoners who finish under certain times.

Such incentives are not new to these Olympics. Soviet gymnast Dmitri Bilozerchev has said he received 15,000 rubles, about $24,000, and three thousand cash American after he won the 1987 world championships.

China's Lou Yun has said his one gold and two silver medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics meant better food, extra credit points on his school grades, an apartment for his parents and a salary twice that of the average worker.