Sebastian Coe's heroic steps. ~Olympic Appearance Money ~

Have you ever heard of the term “appearance money”?

It was a term that caused a media furore before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. It refers to the money that is paid for participating (appearing) in the Olympics.

At the time, the international sports community was divided over whether to allow professional athletes to compete in the Olympics, and Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch, who became president of the IOC in 1980, was trying to steer the Olympic Games towards professionalisation.

Amateurism was alive and well in Japan, and the debate was heated.

However, Samaranch had prepared a last resort. Even if professionals were allowed to participate, they could not be rewarded for their participation in the Olympics. That was the only way to guarantee that the Olympics would have amateurism within it.

There should be no appearance money in the Olympics, he said.

However...

The World Athletics (WA) announced on April 10, 2024 that it would award $50,000 (¥7.6 million) to the gold medal winner at forthcoming Olympics in Paris. This is the first time in 128 years that the international sport organization has done so. As the modern Olympics began as a competition for amateur athletes, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not award prize money, and the WA's decision marks a major turning point. Reuters reported today.

The president of WA is Lord Sebastian Coe. He was a role model of the amateur athlete, who overcame opposition from the British Government to participate in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which were boycotted by some western countries, and won gold in the 1500m of athletics.

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Recognising that some medalists were being rewarded by their home governments, athletic organizations and sponsors, Coe said, "It's a small contribution to add to that. I want the athletes to realise that they are not completely isolated here. I understand the link between the athletes' performance and the growth of the sport. I want them to know that as the sport grows, they will also benefit from it".

Surprise!

Until 1974, the Olympic Charter contained the concept of 'amateur', which meant that anyone who had been paid for playing a sport could not participate in the Olympic Games.

However, during the Cold War, in socialist countries athletes did not receive any remuneration for their sport, but they were supported entirely by the state as top athletes. They were equivalent to professionals in capitalist countries. The path to professional participation in the Olympics was inevitable to maintain this balance.

Professionals joined the Olympic Games in 1988, but the Olympic Charter protected the last bastion. The Olympic Charter held fast to its last stand: no to the participation of athletes in the Olympic Games on the condition of financial compensation. Its heart is that "participation in the Olympic Games is not for money".

The significance of the Olympics was as a competition in which professional athletes participated without prize money. Professionals have participated without payment because of its value.

"As the Olympic movement grows, it is the sport and ultimately the athletes who will benefit from it. So, I think this prize money is firmly in line with the principles and philosophy of the IOC", Coe insisted.

But the facts are different.

'No one gets any financial compensation for participating in the Olympics', which was the last bastion of Olympism, which discarded the concept of 'amateurism'.

Has Coe lost his Olympic mind?

He says he notified the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the total prize money of $2.4 million without prior consultation before the announcement.

The Olympics, which is criticised as commercialism, can say 'not so' because there was a great proposition that there was no financial compensation for participating.

It seems to me that he is only trying to pick a fight with IOC President Bach.

How will Bach react? For the time being, I will remain calm, but depending on how Bach reacts, the Olympic Games may face another crisis.

(Titles omitted)

11 April 2024.

Ryoichi Kasuga

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