OPINION – Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch the Olympics. The athletes are amazing with their steely resolve to get the job done for their country. I covet their perseverance and excellence as they shoot for the gold.
I wonder sometimes, though, if the Olympics have become more of a business regarding the athlete and the attainable fame and fortune, than the sole representation of true patriotism and pride on behalf of the homeland of the Olympian.
Families in the USA will spend themselves into oblivion to access the training, travel and coaching that it takes to compete in the Olympics. Endorsements and cash seem to be the golden carrot of motivation in this fierce competition of the countries.
The athletes claim their competitions are solely for national pride, but is that the most honest answer?
I am trying not to be cynical, but as the fresh-faced and fabulous Gabby Douglas won the gold in the all-around event for gymnastics, the media reported that her endorsement deal for Kellog’s Corn Flakes and her check for millions of dollars was signed, sealed and delivered within 24 hours. Was Douglas’s big smile after the win also acknowledging the big financial perks as well? She is now a multimillionaire; not bad for a young16-year-old girl.
Things changed back in the 1970s as the International Olympic Committee eliminated the requirement of amateurism and allowed the athletes to be compensated. Did that change the games for the better? Are the games now synonymous with the words Nike, Reebok and Wheaties? Have we relegated the Olympics to a marketing machine for the masses?
This year’s host country, Britain, does not pay its athletes a dime for racking up the medals but they are given an opportunity to be featured on the Royal Stamp, which can garner up to a five-figure income for the athlete. The USA pays the athlete $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for capturing bronze. China pays for its athletes training and Singapore offers its champions a whopping $800,000 paycheck. It has also been suggested that Russia, combined with its regional government, pays its winners between $135,000 and a million dollars for their gold medal wins.
Would it be more dignified and honest to have each country send their very best athletes, place them in identical attire and, without spectators knowing which country the athletes belong to, allow them to compete for themselves? Does it really matter which country merits the most medals throughout the two-week sports domination?
Sometimes the Olympics seem more reminiscent of a beauty contest. The winning country with the most medals gets to wear the cheesy gem-encrusted crown for its allotted four-year reign. Is it more about bragging rights? Does anyone remember who won the most medals in the Winter Olympics? The winner of the Olympics should, at the very least, be able to dominate the world for its four-year run. Now, that’s something to swim or hurdle for!
Our U.S. media loves to barrage us with their video montage of each U.S. athlete’s backstory, but I would rather see the backstories of the other athletes as well. I find myself rooting for athletes from other countries as well as our own U.S. competitors.
I was happy to be able to share the story of Guor Marial, a South Sudanese track and field star, on our Fox News Perspectives Morning Show. It is always inspiring to see an athlete like Marial who opted to run under the Independent Olympic flag; giving up possible sponsorship, money or specialized coaching based on his decision of true character. He is an athlete without a home or a dime to his name. He is running for himself.
As a refugee from Sudan, he was not allowed to compete for the USA and refused to represent his homeland of Sudan because of the atrocities the people there have suffered under an alleged corrupt government. Marial escaped slavery, execution and the horrors of oppression, violence and poverty to run in the Olympics. The IOC has paid his way to the games and all he was hoping for was a new pair of running shoes.
I would like to see Marial on the cover of a cereal box, too, even if he doesn’t bring home the gold on August 12. He is an inspiration.
Nonetheless, all of the Olympic athletes are an example of drive and excellence and I find it a thrill to watch the best of the best compete in the fiercest of all competitions, cornflakes and all.
Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are hers and not representative of St. George News.
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