Charles Fraser makes some good points in his column (Team competition should be removed in spirit of Olympic Games, SN 10/19), especially about the need to reestablish amateurism as a guiding principle in the Olympics.
However, its not just professionals in team sports that have corrupted the Olympic amateur ideal. The golden athletes Fraser refers to are just as professional and just as well paid as the tennis Williams sisters and the U.S. basketball Dream Team. Michael Johnson, Marion Jones and Maurice Greene participate in athletics tours around the world, especially in Europe. They command payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to run in these races and often pull out of competition simply because the pay doesnt meet their superstar standards.
Furthermore, they are often as cocky and conceited as their dribbling and dunking counterparts. The taunting and posing antics of Greene and the rest of the gold medal U.S. four-by-100-meter relay team stands as evidence that individual athletes can be just as rude and thoughtless as any team athlete.
Team sports hold their own place in the Olympics, providing athletes from a great variety of sports the chance to compete on an international stage and be honored as gold medal champions.
Having been in Sydney working at the Olympics these past few months, Ive had the joy of seeing athletes compete and bask in the Olympic spirit: A rag-tag group of minor leaguers, the U.S. baseball teams defeat of the dominant Cuban squad was called the Miracle on Dirt by some journalists, comparing it to the U.S. hockey teams remarkable win over the Soviet Union in 1980. In front of a roaring home crowd, an Australian womens beach volleyball team collapsed to the ground in tears of joy after capturing gold.
Trailing heading into the second half, Denmarks womens handball team fought back to beat Hungary in the gold medal match in front of thousands of Danish fans. In a sport that few even imagine being in the Olympics, these fans from halfway around the world erupted when their team charged onto the court after the match.
Its a shame that NBCs coverage didnt allow Americans to share in how great these Olympics were. And the Olympics are far from perfect - corporate interests and drug abuse continue to plague the movement.
But whether its a team or individual sport, moments like those above are what make the Olympics special. Whether those competing are amateur or professional, the measure of a successful Games is the happiness and togetherness the competition brings to fans and athletes.
From that standpoint, the Sydney 2000 Olympics were a huge success.