A debate of Olympic magnitude–‘send the pros home’

A debate of Olympic magnitude--send the pros home

by Matt Morain

In the last decade’s deluge of commercialism and capitalistic influence in all aspects of society, the Olympics have attempted to stand as the last bastion of pure and chaste competition. Corporate sponsors, commercials, and other extraneous endorsements, however, have knocked its legs out from under it. In order to prop the Olympics back up to their previously exalted standing, we need to remove professionals from competition.

The Olympics are the absolute epitome of amateur competition. That was the intent of the ancient Greeks when they staged the first Olympic games at Olympia. The four-year period between Olympics is known as an Olympiad, and was the system upon which time in ancient Greek history was calculated. Clearly, that was a time when the Olympics were valued for the purity of sport, and not seen as a new entrepreneurial endeavor to line the pockets of the promoters.

Professional athletes have no place in the Olympics. These people get paid for doing what they do everyday. Amateur athletes do not, instead they simply train tirelessly, often times all of their lives, to become the champions of their sport in a contest designed unpretentiously to do so. To introduce the element of the professional is to taint the concept at its core. Sure, these athletes accept the honor of winning the gold, but it’s like a naval aviator competing at the St. Thomas School for the Blind: the honor isn’t as great due to the circumstances of their competition.

Take the Olympic Dream Team of the United States for example. This basketball team was comprised entirely of NBA superstars, making it stupidly easy to defeat whatever meager ragtag bunch of hooligans that the opposition threw together. The USA had an unfair upper hand in every game, thus abolishing free and unfettered competition. This is not the way the Greeks would have wanted it to turn out.

The popularity of the Olympic games has waned in the last few Olympiads. This is caused by the same factor that tries to prevent it. The money backers behind the Olympics have tried to lure more viewers by over-advertising athletes, events, and endorsements. Instead, they should increase focus on why the Olympics were created in the first place, and not draw attention to the manifestation of what it has become today.

When competitors get distracted by thoughts of getting back to the regular season, shoe deals, and whether or not their gold medals will clash with their professional team’s warm-ups, the purity of sport suffers. Biathlon participants don’t worry about career-ending injuries, and curlers aren’t concerned with how the grueling Olympic schedule will affect their extraneous business deals.

Amateurs were to pour their hearts into their competition, forming hallowed bonds with both their teammates and opponents, and reveling in the simple accomplishments of their victory. When professionals compete, the simple enjoyment of the games is replaced by a commercialistic feeling of nausea that causes fans to lose interest and causes the Olympics to lose prestige.