Drinking the Olympic Kool-Aid, by Toni Reavis, note by Larry Eder

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Toni Reavis is one of the most insightful columnists on the sport of road running, and athletics. This is Toni's call to sharing the wealth and providing a larger position for the athletes who are the focus on the 18 days of glory (remember the late Bud Greenspan's movie on the LA Olympics?). 

The Olympic movement will give nearly four billion TV viewers a chance to see their favorite sports on the Olympic stage. Toni Reavis suggests that is way past the time to give athletes a piece of the pie that they should receive...

Thumbnail image for TowerBridgeBoat-Olympic12.jpg
Tower of London Bridge, 27 July 2012, photo by PhotoRun.net

DRINKING THE OLYMPIC KOOL-AID
by Toni Reavis

It is a spectacle beyond wonder, and an all but incomprehensible effort to stage.  
Primarily so for the host city and its organizing committee, but also for the grand 
ayatollahs of the IOC, the member bishops of their national committees, and their 
deep-pocketed supporters, the sponsors.  Yet it remains the labor of the plebian 
athletes to be the sine qua non for the entire enterprise.  Without them, what?  
And so, of the $6 billion generated by the London Games, how much will be shared 
with those whose exploits make the grand exposition possible? 

Well, consider that a 2012 Olympic gold medal has been struck with less than 1.5% 
actual gold (a mere 6 grams), and you have an apt understanding of the balance of 
commercial power we are about to behold over the next fortnight plus three. 
We know who really gets the gold.

My old friend Bob Bright excoriated me recently following my previous post 
- Bob Bright: After 25 years Nothing Has Changed.  Bob charged me with 
becoming an advocate for the athletes rather than a straight journalist.  
"Folks, including you, are trying to build a sport around the wants and 
needs of athletes. How's that working out? Athletes are here today and 
gone tomorrow."

True enough, Bob, athletes do come and go; it is the way of all sportsmen. 
But take a good look at the sports which have strong athlete representation. 
Those are the ones that flourish.  In fact, track and field is not built 
around the athletes, and how that is working out is, as you say, abundantly 
evident.  

Therefore, it isn't the athletes' side I am taking. Instead I'm casting a 
critical eye at the imbalances which continue to hold sway in this sport, 
and which, over time, have contributed to the withering of the sport's 
status on the sporting landscape.  Make no mistake, if the situation were 
tilted unfavorably to the advantage of the athletes at the expense of the 
federations and events, and as a consequence the same sad state of the sport 
was in evidence that we see under the current model, you can be certain that 
I would write in favor of a corresponding swing in fortunes.  But until that 
eventuality is witnessed, I will read and write as my eye and conscious lead 
me.

It has never been my intention to diminish the role of any of the stakeholders 
of the sport, simply to acknowledge the critical role the athletes play in the 
proceedings, and the consequences of not elevating their station.  Thus, the 
issue of athlete rights remains evergreen, and with each passing month seems 
to be gaining increasing momentum.  Now with bright light of the Olympic 
flame about to be lit, the subject is rife for further enlightenment. 

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