User:Liu Yu/Impacts of Olympic Professionalism

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Here is the link of my video presentation,(Impacts of Olympic Professionalism). Thanks for your comments.

Since the distinction between "amateur" and "professional" was deleted from the Olympic charter, many argue that the advent of professionalism has devalued the Olympic spirit envisioned by the modern event's originator, France's Pierre de Coubertin. De Coubertin believed the modern Olympics should be a pristine, apolitical arena where "amateur" athletes indulge in pure competition and rejoice in the heights of human achievement. However, it has turned out that the modern Olympic Games’ developing trend is totally against De Coubertin’s wish. Olympic Professionalism seems to be the right vision where the modern Olympics should develop to, and as a matter of fact, the realties conditions are forcing the Olympics to operate more professionally. For instance, the host city needs to at least balance the huge cost of hosting the Games, and in that case, professionalism might give a great contribution on profit-gaining, such as, elite professional players’ performance could help on increasing the rates of tickets’ selling and broadcasting. In this essay, it will firstly discuss "amateur" and "professional" which way is more suitable for the modern Olympic Games’ development, and also apply facts to support the finding. Following, using comparison to explain both negative and positive impacts that are caused by Olympic Professionalism.


The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) Rule 26 defined an amateur in 1960 as “one who participates and always has participated solely for pleasure and for the physical, mental or social benefits he derives therefrom, and to whom participation in sport is nothing more than recreation without material gain of any kind, direct or indirect” (Thayer, 1960, p.74). An additional clause noted that athletes who were subsidized by governments, educational institutions, or businesses could not be amateurs, nor could those individuals who received military or civil service posts in return for athletic service. Participation in training camps for more than two weeks a year, acceptance of athletic scholarships, or employment as a teacher of sport or physical education or as a coach constituted professionalism as much as the acceptance of money in return for competition, as did profiting commercially from one’s athletic fame in the media, press, or movies.

This concept of amateurism involves much more than simply a measure of income; purity of intent and conduct are the most importance in order to be considered an amateur (Thayer, 1960, p.74). This exclusion of professional athletes has caused several conflicts throughout the history of the modern Olympics. The Jim Thorpe case was the most famous one. The 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon champion, Jim Thorpe, was disqualified when it was discovered that he played semi-professional baseball prior to winning his medals. The IOC restored him as an Olympic champion seventy years later (Sports illustrated, 2004).

However, amateurism was treated as an ideal. Unfortunately, one frequently finds a considerable gap between the ideal and realities of the situation.


Highly organized sport[edit]

Sport seems to lend itself to organization. The first step is usually the organization of the team. From teams, the organization proceeds to leagues, conferences, playoffs, associations, international committees, etc., this appears that “organization breeds organization”. (Graham and Ueberhorst, 1976, p.88) As the organization increases, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain what could be called an amateur standing. Wherever sport is organized, the natural tendency is to move away from what might be called “pure” amateurism. In other words, unorganized sport is amateur sport. If we desire to truly see amateur sport, the place to look is in the back yard or on the neighborhood where a group of boys and girls are engaged in a “pick-up” game. It is difficult for any organization to be purely amateur.

Underground economy[edit]

As a result of the above situation, many people who conduct sport programs constantly find themselves in some sort of grey area. Over the years as the time, effort, and expenses increased and performance levels improved, the Western European and North American amateur sport community developed an underground economy to keep athletes competing, while the rules of amateurism ostensible were preserved (Jozsa, 2009). Performance bonuses, special clinics and personal appearances, money laundering through track clubs, double contracting, double and even triple dipping on expenses, multiple airline tickets, and secret contracts with sport equipment and shoe companies. Commercial sporting goods firms, such as Adidas, Puma, Nike, and others engaged athletes as marketing consultants and added large, under-the-table bonuses and subsidies. The result was that Olympic competitors remained amateurs on paper, but in practice, they were professionals. It was a shame period. The amateur situation contributed greatly to the collapse of the first professional track association because athletes could make more money as amateurs than as professionals. Some people said “we are naive to think that our athletes aren’t already professionals”.


The move toward professionalism in sport is not solely the result of increased organization and an underground economy. Commercialism is the largest invisible hand. IOC experienced financial crisis in the 1970s (Preuss, 2004, p33). The games themselves were such a burden on host cities that it appeared that no host would be found for future Olympiads.

Preuss’ (2004) listed numbers of facts on what is making the modern Olympics toward to the commercialism. The city of Montreal which is the first time Canada host the Games in 1976, was left with a crushing debt of $1.5 billion. Montreal finally made the last payment on that debt in December 2006; three decades after the national embarrassment began. 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, 65 countries boycotted which resulted $9 billion was in vain. The 1976 games in Montreal and 1980 games in Moscow had saddled organizers with expenses greatly in excess of revenues. Los Angeles was the only applicant for the 1984 Olympics, and the city of Los Angeles would bear no financial liability for the Games. At that stage the IOC was near bankruptcy and had to change to survive (Thomas, 2010). Commercialism was the only way forward and selling broadcast rights became the major income stream. Non-professional means less audience, which means less broadcast, and which also means no money. Therefore Olympic Game needs top athletes to improve performance and attract public attention. While non-professional is the big stone on the way to change. So by 1981, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch completed the shift in emphasis away from defining an amateur by concentrating on defining a professional (Segrave & Chu, 1988, p.313).

All in all, it is impossible to begin to achieve the amateur ideal as long as the media and other sport promoters insist on reporting results in terms of point standings among the nations.

Disadvantages of professionalism:[edit]

The Olympic spirit is devalued:[edit]

Many argue that the advent of professionalism has devalued the Olympic spirit envisioned by the modern event’s originator, France's Pierre de Coubertin. He envisioned a clean, pure, apolitical arena where "amateur" athletes compete for the betterment of human kind at the heights of human achievement (PBS, 1996). He created a vision that allowed everyone to compete in this significant international event. The participants do not need to be professional or have endorsements.

However in present day Olympic Games, athletes have sponsors, endorsement contracts, expensive equipment, and the luxury of training full time, and money has changed the look and feel of the Olympics (PBS, 1996). The influx of corporate involvement has caused some difficult moments. Michael Jordon and his “Dream Team” mates almost boycotted the medal ceremony in Barcelona because the team’s Nike loyalties and paraphernalia clashed with the podium, which sported the corporate symbol of the American team sponsor, Reebok. The podium was draped in the American flag to avoid embarrassment (Morgan, 2002). Another view has been raised after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The argument is that in some certain sports events, athletes were competing with the advanced technologies rather than their skills or capabilities (Bond, 2008). From the design of runners' shoes and aerodynamic bikes to the development of improved training regimes and performance-enhancing diets, technologies are diminishing the value of modern sporting records, making it unfair to compare the performances of this year's athletes with those through history.


Doping is another certain issue that might be caused by the professionalism, and it is ruining the reputation of the Olympic Games as well. It is believed that, the levels of the competitions were significantly increasing since the professional players were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. Therefore, in order to achieve or maintain a good result in the high level competitions. By using of substances to improve athletic performance is not new in each time of Olympic Games. The typical sample should be the five-time Olympic medalist sprinter Marion Jones. Jones achieved outstanding results in 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. However, after years she was failed by the doping tests at the U.S. track and field championships. She also admitted that she took the doping during Olympic Games, and returned the five golden medals to IOC (Cwelich, 2010). Moreover, in both 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, there were each 26 and 20 players failing the doping tests (, 2011). It could be thought that, even elite professional players have also taken drugs to enhance her performance in the high competitive Olympic events; the professionalism brings inestimable pressures for every Olympic competitor, and this negative impact seems hard to eliminate in the future Games.

Unfair competition for poor countries:[edit]

It appears that not all countries are equal when it comes to the Olympics. Recently certain countries in Africa have begun to voice their complaints about this inequality. Not all nations have the financial resources to support or train potential Olympic athletes. Therefore, in order to reach their full ability, athletes from countries such as Mozambique and Senegal have started to migrate to wealthier nations in order to compete. These wealthy nations have been accused by many African countries of stealing the best African athletes, thereby denying the poorer African countries from encouraging sport.

Advantages of professionalism:[edit]

Closing the gap on professional sport:[edit]

It is assumed that, in some circumstance the professionalism could stimulate the developments of certain sports events. For instance, in the 1992 Olympic Games the USA entered the “Dream Team” into the Basketball tournament. During the tournament the NBA starts had demonstrated what the top level performance of basketball was (USA Basketball, n.d.). Since then, basketball professional leagues had been appeared one after another in each country, and the international players were starting to play in the NBA games. During years’ communications and developments, although the Americans have still dominated the first place of basketball, but their advantages are not as obvious as before. In 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the American men’s basketball team did face a great challenge by the Spanish’s’(ESPN, 2008).

Non professionals increased the prestige of the Olympic Games:[edit]

By overturning the amateur rule in 1986 the IOC responded to the changing world in which sport had become a business. Excluding professional athletes meant excluding many of the best athletes. The inclusion of professional athletes in Olympic competition means that once again the Olympic motto has substance, "Faster, higher, stronger".

Increasing IOC revenue:[edit]

Pierre de Coubertin envisioned that the Olympic Games would always remain an international gathering of amateur athletes who competed only for the love of sport. However, while this continues to be one of the reasons most athletes who participate in the Olympics continue to compete, sport now also represents a career choice. The Games also involve large amounts of money and an intimate association with commercial enterprise. Since the world top players could compete in the Olympic Games, the sponsors of each player or each national team also tried to enter this market as well. In 1985, IOC established The Olympic Partner Program (TOP). Under this program, corporations pay millions of dollars for exclusive worldwide marketing rights to both the Summer and Winter Games over a four-year period (IOC, 2007). According to the recent statistics, between 2001 and 2004, TOP was supported by Coca-Cola, Atos Origin, John Hancock, Kodak, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Samsung, Sports Illustrated, Swatch, Visa International, and Xerox. The program was worth US$604 million to the IOC (IOC, 2007).


In conclusion, this article has been mainly focused on the impacts of the Olympic Professionalism. In the early discussion, it is stated that amateurism is only an ideal, or it might be a model when the ancient Olympic Games should follow. Professionalism is the current trend where the modern Olympics are heading to; meanwhile, highly organized sport, underground economy and commercialism have been explained as the three factors that are forcing the modern Olympics to be professionalism. Three factors also strength the fact amateurism is not suitable for the improvement of modern Olympics. Following, there is a comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of the Olympic Professionalism. The most negative impact of professionalism seems to be the devaluation of the Olympic Spirit. Due to the Olympic competitions are becoming more professional, money, sponsors’ deal, and getting Olympic medals are the players’ or national teams’ concerns right now. The Pierre de Coubertin’s pure Olympics’ thought is really hard to achieve under the current conditions of sport. In another hand, the Olympic professionalism are also generated the positive impacts the Olympics’ development. It is mentioned that, the professionalism could stimulate the nations to continually improve their national teams’ performance; consequently it strength on improving the qualities of the Olympics matches; therefore, the revenues of International Olympic Committees could will have a significant increase in each year.


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