FORGET CHARIOTS OF FIRE. The ideal that only amateur athletes should be allowed to compete in the Olympics is now well outdated.
But is there really any place for professional sports such as basketball and tennis in the Olympic program?
I’m not sure that Baron Pierre de Coubertin had these events in mind when he founded the International Olympic Committee and the modern-day Games.
For me, Roger Federer’s straight-sets defeat at the hands of American James Blake in the Olympic tennis tournament epitomized the problem with allowing the pros to compete.
I’m not saying Federer went out to deliberately lose. But was he as fired up to represent his country, Switzerland, at the Games as he would have been playing in a Grand Slam event? I seriously doubt it.
Tennis already has an international team competition – the Davis Cup – so it hardly needs to be showcased at the Olympics.
And does winning an Olympic gold medal mean as much as winning a Grand Slam title?
Basketball and tennis bring shame on Games
Similarly, is the Olympic stage any place for highly paid basketball stars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant?
Of course, it has nothing to with the fact that basketball – and the NBA – is one of the most popular sports in China. Or that in Yao Ming, of the Houston Rockets, China has one of the stars of the NBA.
I’m sure the world’s broadcasters, and NBC in particular, are very happy to have the basketball to boost viewer ratings. Equally, for the IOC, it’s a great tool to attract sponsors. But surely the Games should be for sports like archery, gymnastics and weightlifting, that only receive exposure once every four years.
I can still recall those golden moments from Chariots of Fire and the words of British athlete Eric Liddell, known as the “Flying Scotsman,” on his dilemma about whether he should compete on a Sunday.
“I believe that God made me for a purpose…but he also made fast, and when I run, I feel HIS pleasure.”
Those were the days when it was the taking part, not the winning, that counted. Athletes competed for glory, not money. Do you really believe the likes of Federer, James and Bryant share that same philosophy?