Kaieteur News – The Olympics is the world’s greatest sporting spectacle. It brings together athletes from all around the world to compete against one another and for personal and international glory.
The Games show just how incredible the human spirit is and the extraordinary limits to which human endurance and performance can be pushed. It almost brings tears to my eyes witnessing the breathtaking performances which are turned out every four years.
Part of the traditional appeal of the Olympics has been its amateur status. But that is no more and the Games are now being made sour by the presence of professional athletes.
The introduction of professionals into the Games is a violation of the Olympic spirit – the spirit of amateur competition. When professionals are allowed to take part in the Games in the disciplines of football, lawn tennis and basketball it makes a mockery of the event. I do not think this should have been allowed to happen.
The Olympics has for a long time been an amateur sport. It emerged as a contest between states in which all are equal. In reality of course countries with professional leagues tend to have the better athletes. The Olympics as originally conceived levelled the playing field and made it possible for weaker and smaller states to shine in the international limelight.
In 1986, the decision was taken to admit professional athletes. This change resulted from pressure from commercial sponsors. In the process, the Olympic Games moved from being primary an Olympic Sport to a commercial enterprise and because of this it was felt that there was a need to attract superstars to make the Games more appealing to sponsors.
The introduction of professional athletes contaminated the Olympic spirit. Sometimes you wonder whether the athletes are running, swimming, leaping or somersaulting for their country or for their sponsors and for future endorsements.
As someone once said, competing in the Olympics was about pride and glory for yourself and country not about money or power. And it simply is unfair to ask amateur athletes, particularly from poor countries to compete with professionals in developed countries who earn seven figure sums.
It is like asking the Guyana basketball team to compete against an all-star team from the NBA. Competition in certain sports such as basketball, soccer and lawn tennis has never been as imbalanced in the Olympics as it is today. Since 1992 at Barcelona, the United States, stacked with NBA superstars, has won the basketball in six of the seven Olympics.
That 1992 US basketball team is often referred to as the Dream Team. By common consensus it is considered the greatest basketball team ever assembled and included names such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley.
How can you ask amateurs to compete against such as team? No wonder the team steamrolled the Opposition.
The introduction of professions made the margin of victories lopsided. For example, the Dream Team from the USA defeated Croatia 117-85 in the 1992 finals.
Imagine what would have happened if Olympic boxing had allowed professionals. Imagine Mike Tyson fighting at the Olympic Games. Fortunately boxing is one of those sports in which professionals cannot enter.
The admission of professional tennis, soccer and basketball players vulgarizes the Olympic spirit; it turns those events into a parody. Opening the Games to professional athletes also denies amateur athletes the opportunity that they should have to compete and win Olympic glory.
As such, I never look at Olympic basketball, football and tennis. I do not believe that now that professional athletes have tasted Olympic glory that these particular Olympic sporting disciplines will ever return to being exclusively for amateur.
I am not original in this criticism. It was made years ago, by Cuban President Fidel Castro. In fact, it is bitterly tragic that while professional athletes are increasingly invading the games, baseball, long an Olympic sport, was not an Olympic sport until now.
I would hate to see professional boxing join the Olympic retinue. I would not like to live to see the day when cricket joins the fray because it would mean that the sports premier competition, Cricket World Cup, would have to give way to the Olympics. It would not just be right. Nor should it.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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