In a world of economic, medical and environmental concerns around the globe, people are refreshed by the spirit embodied in the Olympic Games.
One unique quality is the opportunity to see participants go head-to-head in events in which the Olympics is the highest standard. Watching various track and field finals is comparable to having the Super Bowl, World Cup, World Series and Stanley Cup all held in just a few short weeks.
This year will see the return of golf as an Olympic sport after an absence of 112 years and the last champion is George S. Lyon, a Canadian.
When Lyon represented Canada, he did so as an amateur, primarily because professionals were not allowed to enter. He paid for his own training, travel and competition expenses, but there was no prize greater than winning a medal for your country.
Today, countries form teams.
The financial burden is covered by governments, sponsors and some minor prize money while the athletes are still considered to be amateur in status they live a far different life than their predecessors.
In fact, certain sports do pay prize money to amateur competitors but that money remains in escrow until the athlete retires from amateur sport.
Other countries have skirted the issue by enlisting the athletes into the army where all expenses are paid, they generate an annual salary/housing allowance with only one responsibility – to train for competition in amateur events.
Yet, professional athletes drew the attention and were finally allowed into the Olympics, thus beginning a whole new chapter. Competition for the pure joy of comparing one’s skills against another gave way to athletes conducting a business with them as the product.
Where this ‘new’ situation becomes conflicted is when a professional athlete qualifies to represent his/her country in an Olympic sport. Upon first consideration, what an incredible honour.
Imagine, of all the millions of citizens in a country, your skills have the best opportunity for recognition. You are their symbol of excellence, their champion, their model of distinction, but being crass, how much do you owe your country?
Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen have indicated they will not accept an invitation to play in Rio this summer.
Each of them runs a business called “professional tour player.” Their skill level is so high that people pay them money to play golf. As such they are asking, “Where is the financial benefit to play in the Olympics?”
Currently, Adam Scott is being blasted by fellow Aussie, Dawn Fraser, an eight-time Olympic medalist in swimming.
Fraser wrote on Facebook: “Well done Adam great to put your country on hold so that you can fulfill your own schedule. How much money do you want in life? Not showing much for your country.”
“I guess working three jobs a week to secure my place as an Olympic swimmer has given me the strength to say what I feel about sportsmen and women that do this.
“Well done, Adam may you enjoy your sport and the money you earn give you great pleasure. I am still trying to survive at 78 years old but a very proud Australian.”
Dawn Fraser is entitled to her opinion, but it does sound as if she is unhappy about her circumstances.
It isn’t Scott’s fault society pays professional golfers more for the entertainment value he provides over swimming, anymore than the NFL is more popular than dressage.
One might be forgiven for wondering what Fraser might say if each of her victories was worth $1-million, or, how often do financially successful professionals in other walks of life perform their services free of charge and cover all the expenses to do so?
It is a tremendous honor to represent your country, but how many times must you do it? Golf has the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup and the World Cup, charity events, dinners, appearances, fundraisers and parties.
Outside of the hectic pace of the season, what’s often overlooked is thatplayers have families, personal training, practice, practice rounds, travel time and laundry to do.
Professional golfers do pay back a lot and I disagree with Dawn Fraser, primarily because times have changed.
I don’t think players are choosing not to play because they are wealthy. I think they are trying co-ordinate their schedules to best serve a multitude of obligations.
If it was me, I’d play for my country in the Olympics, the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and the World Cup, but I don’t have the benefit of reading another person’s mind or knowing their personal circumstances.
Perhaps, the Olympics just aren’t a good fit for professionals.