Is it Still Sport?
The ideals of amateurism are seen as quaint historical artefacts nowadays. Chariots of Fire is an amazing movie that’s a bit hard to understand, and the NCAA’s disgusting ‘ownership’ of athletes images has made most people think the whole concept of amateurism is a absurd (how can an organisation have complete ownership of an athlete’s imagine, forever?).
The reality is that amateurism is no longer remotely relevant in today’s society. When corporations, and governments make billions of dollars from sport, they are actually making those millions from athletes. And if someone is making billions of dollars because of the performance an athlete puts on, then that athlete should be rewarded.
But, of course, the converse is also reasonable. If an athlete is rewarded to put on a performance, then it is reasonable for the corporation and/or government to see a return on this investment.
Nowadays, if government is sponsoring sport they are doing it for a reason and they need a return. If that return is the long term health of the citizens, then that needs to be assessed. After all, it's tax-payer money, it shouldn’t just be thrown away. If that return is for Olympic Medal performances then that too should be assessed. Not only that, but the athletes and organisations receiving these tax-payer dollars need to be doing everything they can to ensure there is indeed a return on the community’s investment.
The question is, is this still sport? Doesn’t this ‘corporatisation’ and ‘bureaucratisation’ of sport mean that it is no longer sport in the way we used to define it?
Well, no, not really. The biggest change is the financial reward that comes to companies and governments due to the sporting performance of individuals. You can bet that if Moet were looking to make 2 billion dollars from the Olympics in 1924 they would have had logos on each one of the hurdles, and an advertisement ready to go discussing just how Moet, and Moet alone resulted in the perfect form required for Olympic Champions. You can also bet that if the British Government was providing the entire infrastructure and support network for the British Hurdling team, they would expect there to be very good reasons, determined from detailed analysis and prediction, that the champagne glasses would make a difference, otherwise they might not have paid for it.
The sophistication of sport in today’s society is not due to the abandonment of sporting ideals, its due to the accountability required by the financial investment (and reward).