Olympic Athletes, Professionals or Amateurs?

In this thread TeaElle expresses the following sentiment.

I used to feel the same way TeaElle does and was especially disappointed when the USA assembled the Dream Team for basketball in 1992. Of course I missed the boat by a few years since the IOC dropped the ban on professional players in '86 and in '88 professional tennis players were participating in the games. Oh well, belated fury is better then no fury at all.

Then I got to thinking. What’s the difference between many so called amateur athletes and their professional counterparts? A lot of these “amateur” athletes live off of subsidies from their governments or private donations. So what’s the big deal with professional athletes competing in the olympics?


When I watch an olympic event, I want to know that the athletes on my TV are the very best in the whole world, bar none. I don’t want to hear that there are hundreds of guys who are actually better, but can’t play because they work for a living, because that makes the contest a sham. I want to know that the guy who just won the race is indeed the fastest runner on the face of the Earth, not just the fastest runner who was allowed to compete.

The Olympics are a test of capabilities, period.

I was watching a documentary about the Olympics the other day, in which they said the sole reason for the ban on professionals was to keep members of the lower classes out of the competition. Think about it - the only people who could afford to train full-time would be those who are independently wealthy.

Yesterday I was watching a documentary similar to that mentioned by chula. They did make much of the fact that modern amateurism was merely an attempt to keep the workingman or woman in their place. They quoted the rules of sculling and rowing which banned participation by competitors who earned a living on the water.

Further they mocked the notion that the original Greek games were amateur contests. The competitors trained extensively and had no other means of income. A victory in the Olympics assured a man of a rich life.