Canada has announced its team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.....
Canada is sending 266 athletes, which is a smaller number than went to the Moscow Summer Games, which was largly boycotted. Never let it be said that Canada doesn't want to push the boat out, because they are sending 270 support staff..... That is more than one per athlete.
It isn't, however, sending many top athletes, because it set impossibly hard criteria for qualiification. Athletes must be in the top 12 in the world.
"The International Amateur Athletics Federation, the world governing body of Track & Field, posted a memo to all national Track & Field governing bodies late last year stating that the 2004 Olympic Marathon will be the premier event in Greece because that is where the event originated. The IAAF requested full participation (up to 3 athletes) per country in order to fill the men's and women's races. The IAAF even softened the international standard from 2:32 to 2:37 to ensure its goal was met. At that date, 4 Canadian runners had met the new women's standard, but none of us had achieved the insurmountable 2:28:14 that the COC had set. What was Canada's response to the IAAF? No change. One would still have to run faster than any Canadian women ever just to get to the Games. And so, for the second Olympics in a row, Canada will have no representation in the women's Marathon. How will we get someone to Beijing in 2008 at this rate?I have met the International Olympic Marathon "A" standard twice this year, and I am Canada's fastest female marathoner, yet I am still not good enough to represent Canada in Athens. No Canadians will get to take part in the historic marathon this summer. Is it really better to have no one racing rather than an athlete who is not ranked in the top 12 globally, but who: trains 2 to 3 hours a day, doesn't take drugs, speaks in her community and works full-time? Sorry that Canada's best just isn't good enough."
Now, I could be wrong, but isn't it supposed to be about individual achievement, rather than partiotism? Apparently, I am wrong.
Is it a surprise that Canada's Olympic Committee is more interested in the medals than the achievement of individual particpants? No. Why? Because medals mean money. Medals mean revenue from selling Olympic doodads, money from sponsors and advertising revenues.
The sponsors want the medals.
It means money, and BIG money.
The ancient Olympics weren't about sponsors and revenues and licensees, although, it should be noted that there were some parties, even in ancient times, which were more interested in money.
"Sotades at the ninety-ninth Festival was victorious in the long race and proclaimed a Cretan, as in fact he was. But at the next Festival he made himself an Ephesian, being bribed to do so by the Ephesian people. For this act he was banished by the Cretans. Pausanias, Description of Greece.*
A truce (ekecheiria) was enforced throughout Greece, which allowed competetors and visitors to travel freely to and from the Games.
Competetors participated in the nude, effectively making them all equals (and obvious that they carried no weapons).
Any man who was free and spoke Greek could compete.
They competed for an olive crown , not money.
"When the Persian military officer Tigranes "heard that the prize was not money but a crown [of olive], he could not hold his peace, but cried, 'Good heavens, Mardonius, what kind of men are these that you have pitted us against? It is not for money they contend but for glory of achievement!'" Herodotus, Histories , 8.26.3"*
They competed as individuals, not on national teams.
"Do you think, fellow citizens, that any man would ever have been willing to train for the pancratium or any other of the harder contests in the Olympic games...if the crown were given, not to the best man, but to the man who had successfully intrigued for it? No man would ever have been willing. But as it is, because the reward is rare...and because of the competition and the honor, and the undying fame that victory brings, men are willing to risk their bodies, and at the cost of the most severe discipline to carry the struggle to the end. Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon , 179"*
I'm wondering what happened to that ideal?
*From the Ancient Olympics website