Sports Mailbag: Readers offer retorts to the Arabian Knight

Cash incentives for Olympians is alright

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Nearly 50 issues into the year, Gazette Sports is running its first Mailbag feature, courtesy of Opinions Editor Malcolm Aboud. In his column last Thursday (‘Cash rewards for medalists violate the spirit of the Olympics’), the Arabian Knight opined that Canadian medalists at the Olympics should not receive cash rewards. Below are some reader responses to his column.

To the Editor:
The view that cash rewards for Olympic medalists are unnecessary, as supported by Malcolm Aboud in his latest column, is mistaken and misguided.

Mr. Aboud tries to prove that the Canadian Olympic Committee is offering these rewards as incentives, but the real reason is to make amateur sports accessible to more potential athletes.

His assertion that the rewards do nothing to aid amateur athletes struggling to reach Olympic-level competence in their chosen sports assumes these athletes bankrupt themselves in search of their goal.

In reality, many people attempt to achieve a place on a Canadian National Team but quit before, not after, they are in extreme financial difficulty.

The prospect of a cash reward of several thousand dollars, should these athletes win at the Olympics, keeps them motivated towards their goal and willing to make the “financial sacrifices” Mr. Aboud mentions. This results in more athletes attempting to represent Canada at the Olympics, as well as making a stronger Canadian Olympic Team.

The fact of the matter is, the majority of sports represented at the Olympics do not and will never have a professional league, just as the athletes in these sports will never be able to “go pro.” It is for this reason that, despite the introduction of cash rewards, the Olympics will always represent the best of amateur athletics in the world.
"Matthew Waddell
History II

To the Editor:
Malcolm Aboud wrote about the Canadian Olympic Committee offering monetary incentives for successful Olympic athletes, with a $20,000 prize for the Gold medal, and lesser prizes for Silver and Bronze.

He argued this goes against the spirit of the Games, and that this system “directly contradicts the values on which the Games were founded.”

Although Malcolm’s heart is in the right place regarding sportsmanship and the values of the games, he is very misinformed. Ancient athletes who competed and won in the Olympics (going back well into times B.C.) would not only win a sacred olive wreath, pride and glory, but would also be rewarded by their home city state.

A common example is Athens in Ancient Greece. The city-state would give 500 drachmae to an Olympic victor from its city. That’s about $50,000 dollars today, or one year’s salary. Other examples would be an exemption from taxes and other social benefits, though most cities offered a hefty sum of money to their victorious athletes.

Note that this in no way detracted from the prestige of the Olympics " they were still dedicated to the gods, and sportsmanship was in no way reduced.

We all know nobody is going to try for an Olympic victory today in hopes of scoring a sweet 20 grand. It’s just a pat on the back, supporting our athletes.

Let’s face it, Canada’s athletic programs overall are underfunded and our athletes need all the help they can get. Heck, they deserve it, don’t they?

But seriously: how does offering a monetary reward for an Olympic victory “go against everything the Greeks envisioned”? It’s exactly what they did.
"Jeff Musial
Psychology IV

Ed. Note: After the way Matthew managed to misrepresent the original argument, thank you, Jeff, for one of the most insightful and informative letters we’ve gotten all year. You put Malcolm in his place, and you did it with style.

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