Opinion: Money destroys a lot in Olympic sport

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal is one of the missing athletes from the Games.AFP photo

I was very interested, and I was ready for the Netherlands vs Japan basketball match three on three. It started with technical problems that were solved non-technically with a roll of duct tape. The starting signal sounded and the commentator spoke in an idiosyncratic manner about Ira Brown, an American who had become Japanese and thus played in Japanese dress.

For an ordinary person like me, it seemed like a masterpiece in sports. Until it became clear that Japanese Americans would play in the Japanese second division. Not an NBA player but a Japanese division player on the Olympic stage.

As a sports enthusiast, I grew up seeing the Olympics as the best in sport integration. Sports achievement picture. But this romantic ideal seems an illusion in today’s world.

Because this phenomenon is unfortunately not limited to basketball, we see in a large part of the sports in the Olympic Games the best athletes are not represented at all.

Just to name a few sports where this is the case: football, tennis, boxing, basketball, baseball and golf.

What is the factor that links these sports? The trade that dominates sports. In almost every sport where money has become the main focus, the Olympic sport itself has become an afterthought.

Trade drives intrinsic value out of the Olympic medal.

It reminds me of the crowding stimulus effect. Translated into Dutch, this is the motivation displacement effect, a microeconomic theory that describes how monetary rewards (money) can replace intrinsic motivation – a well-known and proven human tendency in business.

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The suppression of intrinsic motivation appears to be a valid explanation for why top athletes in commercial sports do not participate in the Olympics.

Because at the top of commercial sports, the athlete quickly earns astronomical sums of up to 20 million euros annually. This is converted into approximately 60 thousand euros per day.

Compare this amount, and the commercial interests associated with a sports contract, with an Olympic medal with compensation, as in the Netherlands, 30,000 euros and the choice is made quickly.

So it is not surprising that these top athletes skip the Olympics, but it does mean that the value of the Olympic medal for these sports is subject to strong inflation. Because what’s an Olympic medal worth if the best athletes don’t participate? Then it is gold with a solid bronze edge, which is the opposite of a coin.

Fortunately, as the trade hasn’t been enough yet, the value of an Olympic medal will remain constant. Because we see that amateur sports are not yet crowded out due to intrinsic motives. Therefore it is amateur sports that are still represented by the best athletes.

One can only hope that amateur sports will maintain their integrity and not develop into commercial industries in the coming years.

When we see kids on the street in Jessica Schilder’s shot putter jersey, the damage is done.

The Games then became Division B of the best sports across the board and the Olympic torch was no longer lit.

Itzi Lorenz, Amsterdam

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Amber Webster

 "Freelance zombie fanatic. Devoted web advocate. Analyst. Writer. Coffee fanatic. Travelaholic. Proud food aficionado."

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