The founder of the Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, wanted the games played by amature athletes, not paid professionals. De Coubertin’s concepts embraced the ideal that a no-named, un-sung hero could rise up from nothing and win an Olympic medal. Athletes were considered “amateur” if they did not play or have a contract with a professional or semi-professional sports team and did not accept financial sponsorship from public corporations or athletic associations; amateur athletes however, could accept private financial support from wealthy family members or fans.
One of the first and most memorable Modern Olympic controversies occurred in 1912. Olympic athlete, Jim Thorp, was stripped of the gold medals he won in the pentathlon and decathlon. They Olympic committee discovered he played semi-professional baseball for two years, and was paid for his participation. His medals were eventually reinstated in 1983, 30 years after his death.
Another controversy occurred in the 1980s when two Canadian ice hockey players, Dan Wood and Mario Gosselin, played during the winter games, but had contracts to play professional ice hockey in the National Hockey League.
A defining occurrence that aided in the altering of the rules regarding professional athletes participating in the Olympic Games involved several countries within the Soviet Union. Olympic-contending athletes were financially supported by their governments and assigned to Red Army units that prepared them for the games. Because of this, these athletes trained for several hours a day, every day of the year, for many years. The athletes did not have jobs outside of their training, but were not considered professionals because they did not belong to professional sports teams, or athletic associations. This extensive training enabled the Soviet Union to produce exceptional athletes, whom ultimately won the majority of Olympic medals during the 1970s and 1980s. When the Olympic Committee became aware of this situation, rather than explain the rules to the Soviet Union and clarify the definition of “amateur,” they decided to change the rules and allow “all the world’s great male and female athletes to participate.”
The Ultimate Change
The official change to the Olympic Charter occurred in 1984 when the guidelines for eligible athletes were altered to include all athletes: after the 1988 games, the rule went into effect. It took several years for all sports and events in the Olympics to incorporate professional athletes. For example, ice hockey did not have professional athletes until the 1998 games and up until 2012, wrestling and boxing were the only sports that did not include professional athletes.
The Impact of Professional Athletes
The Olympic Games saw in incredible influx of viewers due to the participation of professional athletes. Many people accepted the changes and supported their favorite athletes during the games; thus, the games became marketable and the athletes, sponsored.
Many argue by allowing professional athletes into the Olympic Games it ruins the chance of aspiring young athletes to play in the games. Previously, Olympic contenders trained for four years, and then competed for the open spots on a team or in an event. Currently, it is common, in several events, for professional athletes to receive a call and asked if they would like to participate in the games, rather than compete for positions during qualifying tournaments.
It is also argued that many professional athletes do not take their role in the games seriously and only compete for publicity and sponsorship. Many professional athletes do not reside in the Olympic Village, but check into luxurious hotels and engage in recreational activities while the games take place.
About the author:
Sarah writes for allpro.eu on sports mostly the NFL.
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