The Bastardization of the Winter Olympics

John SzurlejAnalyst IJanuary 2, 2010

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 26:  The Olympic flag is carried during the Closing Ceremony of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games on February 26, 2006 at the Olympic Stadium in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Brian Snyder-Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

The spirit of the Olympics once painted a picture of athletes marching in proud formation, waving flags high, and eyes open wide with the awe of the moment they were a part of.

They were athletes that marched together, perhaps meeting each other for the first time, yet nonetheless held a shared feeling of accomplishment and fraternity, as if they had crossed paths many times before.

The moment, fresh and vivid, was not yet tarnished with the allure of big names and established athletes, the sponsors that endorsed them, and the media that worshiped them.

The moment, crisp and unnerving, was not yet diluted by the focus on the "stars" of a particular sport leaving the amateur participants in a secondary limelight—these true heroes that endured pain, trial, and tribulation.

Unfortunately, the Olympics have succumbed to the pressure of needing to become as marketable as ever. The Olympics have come under the pressure of the corporate influence and the need for its own competition in media market share.

The bastardization of the Olympics has already happened, yet instead of trying to preserve the heritage of the games, a ruse has been implemented in which the philosophy of using professional athletes as a means to attract and advance the Olympic spirit has now been widely accepted as normal.

The efforts to preserve the tradition of the amateur athlete have been muted as big dollar sponsorships that come attached with big name stars have all but shouted out those cries.

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Remember Lake Placid, the Miracle on Ice?

No other Olympic Hockey medal can ever compare to that magic. Those athletes that pushed, sacrificed, and gave every ounce of their being against teams of superior skill and coaching would never have stood a chance if measured by today's standards.

Society, through professional sports, has developed an intolerance for mediocre performance and unspectacular sport and replaced it with an addiction for winning that rivals no other period in sports history, pre-free agency and collective bargaining agreements.

The trial and tribulation of the amateur athlete is unspectacular, and disregarded as lack of competitiveness or skill where once it was the drama and storyline which made the games so unique.

Since the first dream team was compiled when Michael Jordan anchored the basketball court, the expectation for dominance in a respective sport has overshadowed the integrity of the games. 

It is no different in the Winter Olympics where our favorite NHL All Stars are given the chance to capture the gold. They don the jersey of an Olympian, taking the place of the amateur that fought to be there, not of their own doing but that of corporate marketability endowing them the scapegoat's role.

"I always found that term (Dream Team) ironic because now that we have Dream Teams, we seldom ever get to dream. But on one weekend, as America and the world watched, a group of remarkable young men gave the nation what it needed most—a chance, for one night, not only to dream, but a chance, once again, to believe."—Herb Brooks

The Olympic games march onward, and on this path make the Lake Placid medal and all of the memorable moments from times gone that more precious!


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