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It's Time to Stop Devaluing the Olympic Gold Medal

Nick JohnstonCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2008

The Olympics are, without a doubt, the greatest sporting spectacle on earth. No one could argue that these games do not represent the pinnacle of human physical ability.

Where else could you see an athlete pushing his body to the limits, as with Michael Phelps in the pool or any one of the marathon runners, across two weeks of pure exertion spanning a plethora of sports?

So why dilute it with half-hearted performances in tennis and basketball? Or baseball, where all of the best players are competing for a more important prize?

Likewise, the soccer tournament lacks all but a handful of the household names that millions of people flock to week in and week out. It's time the IOC recognized that for the Olympics to remain the pinnacle of sporting excellence, these events must be removed.

Nicolas Massu won the tennis event in Athens, having never passed the third round of a grand slam tournament. Since then, he has won two minor tournaments and is now ranked 125th in the world, despite being just 28, so not weakened by age.

In the men's tournament in Beijing, Davydenko, Ferrer, Stepanek, and Murray, amongst others, crashed out after uninspiring performances. In the women's, Ivanovic, Mauresmo, and Sharapova all chose to rest rather than battle for, at best, the fifth biggest prize in the tennis calendar.

Tennis players dream of Wimbledon finals and the orange clay of Roland Garros, not of a humid Beijing Olympic gold against unmotivated opponents.

Fortunately, softball and baseball have been removed as of London 2012. Unfortunately, this has prompted renewed cries for the inclusion of other sports.

Cricket anyone? No, because players don't want to add another tournament to an already packed schedule, particularly when it would lack the draw of a World Cup or the excitement of the IPL.

Similarly, golf has been proposed for future Olympic games. With the Olympics falling in Ryder Cup years, an Olympic gold in golf would be sixth or lower in the priorities of top pros and lack the draw of the majors.

If people want to add sports to the Olympics, look no further than squash. It is a sport growing in international popularity and would value inclusion in the Olympics far higher than many current Olympic events.

So, whilst I love tennis, cricket, baseball, soccer, and golf, they should not be Olympic sports and should not be allowed to devalue gold medals in sports where they truly are the highest possible prize.

It's an interesting debate regarding what the Olympics really mean and I look forward to hearing what everyone else thinks.

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