A debate of Olympic magnitude–‘Bring you very best’

A debate of Olympic magnitude--Bring you very best

by Dave Morain

Every two years the finest athletes in the world gather together to represent their respective countries for the grandest display of sport ever held: the Olympics.

These athletes live for their sport. Every day they train for long hours, leaving little time for any leisure activities, social life, or employment.

It is this last sacrifice that poses a question of much debate: Should the Olympics allow professional athletes to participate in the games?

The hallmark of the Olympics is that only the very best athletes may participate. If this holds true, then it is self-evident that professional athletes be allowed to take part in these games.

Today, the only sports that allow professionals to participate are basketball and ice hockey. Every other sport permits only amateur athletes, but this is due mostly to their unpopularity on a spectator level and, more importantly, their poor commercial value.

Seriously, when was the last time you drove a couple hours to see the luge or curling? Do you have any posters in your room of the ’84 synchronized swimming team?

The best these athletes can hope for is to take home a medal so that they can rake in the endorsement bucks. “Hello, I’m Mark Rhodes. You’ve never seen or heard of me before, but I rode for the United States in the equestrian events at the Olympics two years ago. Buy Midas brake pads.”

Taking part in a popular sport should not hinder your ability to participate in Olympic competition. Before 1992, only college basketball players were allowed to play at the Olympics. Then came the Dream Team.

The United States wiped the floor with the competition behind NBA stars like Jordan, Bird, Magic, Barkley, and Drexler. There is still some debate as to how many drugs officials were on when they let Laettner on the team instead of fellow draftee Shaq.

The Olympics are about putting your best athletes against those of the rest of the world. Would the United States have been putting its best basketball players on the court had they chosen college stars like Grant Hill, Chris Webber, and Rodney Rogers instead of NBA stars like Chris Mullin, David Robinson, and John Stockton? Should we have college hockey players fielding our team instead of NHL stars such as Brett Hull and John LeClair? Of course not.

For those who say that allowing professionals to compete gives the United States an unfair advantage, look at the last time we won the gold in hockey: 1980. The truth of the matter is that the United States does not produce the world’s best hockey players, Canada does. Basketball is a different story, as the U.S. has the monopoly on talent. However, many foreign NBA players such as Luc Longley of Australia and Toni Kukoc of Croatia play for their respective nations. Those who are fortunate enough to play professional sports should not be banned from representing their country when Olympic glory is the only reward.