Let’s face it. The news headlines over the past few weeks have been pretty depressing. From the mounting financial crisis in Europe, to the ongoing grumbling over the Facebook IPO, to the face eating zombie apocalypse in Miami, these stories paint a picture of the world on the brink of collapse.
Well, I suppose the coverage of the Queen’s Jubilee wasn’t a downer, but honestly it isn’t my cup of tea.
Thankfully, the 2012 London Olympics are just around the corner, and for a few weeks this summer, the troubles of the day will melt away. We will be rewarded with multiple opportunities to bask in the feelings of patriotism, awe, and joy while watching the athletic achievement of others.
From the movie Vision Quest:
“I was in the room here one day… watchin’ the Mexican channel on TV. I don’t know nothin’ about Pele. I’m watchin’ what this guy can do with a ball and his feet. Next thing I know, he jumps in the air and flips into a somersault and kicks the ball in – upside down and backwards… Pele gets excited and he rips off his jersey and starts running around the stadium waving it around his head. Everybody’s screaming in Spanish. I’m here, sitting alone in my room, and I start crying.
That’s right, I start crying. Because another human being, a species that I happen to belong to, could kick a ball, and lift himself, and the rest of us sad-assed human beings, up to a better place to be, if only for a minute.”
And that is exactly how I felt as a 13 year old boy watching the 1980 Winter Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice.”
“U S A, U S A, U S A.”
But before we get all teary eyed reliving memories, and before we gear up for a summer of athletic heroism, let’s dig into an issue that the Olympic Overlords might want us to ignore. This issue is the Olympics as a business and the compensation (or lack thereof) for the talent.
Dwayne Wade Speaks Out
In early April, Miami Heat guard and Team USA Member Dwayne Wade made the following statement regarding being paid to participate in the Olympics:
“We play the whole summer. I do think guys should be compensated. Just like I think college players should be compensated as well. Unfortunately, it’s not there. But I think it should be something, you know, there for it.”
Here are a few of the typical, ill-informed comments that appeared on ESPN.com following Wade’s remarks.
Appropriately, the no-BS owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, chimed in a few days later:
“The Olympics are a business, plain and simple. A tax-free juggernaut called the International Olympic Committee that generates revenues, on average, of over $1.4 billion a year. In fact, the IOC’s 2010 tax return shows a $1.4 billion net balance — as in cash in the bank.
And if Wade, and other Olympians don’t ask for and get a share, then who does? Answer: A handful of unaccountable, Switzerland-based bureaucrats hiding behind the veil of so-called Olympism.”
That’s right, he said it. “The Olympics are a business.” So given that the IOC shows this incredible revenue stream, why aren’t the athletes compensated for the value they and they alone create?
Olympic Athletes Sue Samsung
For the Olympic Intelligentsia the expected feel-good media party continued to hit the skids in late April when eighteen Olympians sued Samsung for allegedly using their images without their consent. According to Richard Foster, an attorney for the Olympians, “The project clearly sought to induce sales of Samsung products and sought to build the athletic community around its brand.”
Oops. Samsung contends it ”followed USOC procedures in communicating with the athletes.”
Track and Field
And now there are some rumors swirling around the world of track and field. And no, I am not talking about Nick Symonds asking Paris Hilton to accompany him to the Olympics.
Apparently Nike is considering mandating that ALL athletes dutifully don Nike uniforms at the award ceremony for the Olympic Trials in a few weeks.
Is this really necessary Nike? Or is this simply an attempt to one-up Adidas and their relationship with the athletes of Great Britain?
In any case, the losers in this situation will be the non-Nike athletes and their sponsors who helped them reach the podium.
Mark Cuban is right – this is about business and not about patriotism.
If anyone is showing greed in this situation, it is the companies and organizations that reap the riches from the talents of our Olympic athletes.
Photo courtesy Facebook Product Designer Francis Luu
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