17 Jul Why are the Olympic Games at the pinnacle of any athletes success, while footballers and golfers simply turn down the opportunity of going. 

Article by Christian von Eitzen

While some football clubs forbid their players from participating at the Olympics, twenty golfers have withdrawn from the event, including the top 4 of the golf world rankings. The former number one ranked Rory McIlroy says that he’ll “… probably watch the Olympics, but I’m not sure golf will be one of the events I’ll watch.” He claims that he will only watch ‘’the stuff that matters’’, which is track and field, swimming and diving. Yet why is it that these sports matter more than others? After all, the Olympic Games are renowned as the most celebrated and highest decorated sporting event of human history where taking part alone, is an achievement in itself.

  • Money

In an interview with the German tabloid Bild, Robert Harting, the reigning discus world and Olympic gold medalist claims it is down to the overall wealth and the earnings athletes make over a season in other sports. In athletics, athletes are dependent on the Olympics to make a living as they live off the success of one day, not that of a whole season. He tells the German tabloid that you don’t need the Olympics if you’re rich. Hence why the Northern Irish golfer who has earned €30,422,871 (£25,452,230) in prize money doesn’t need to show off his skills at the Olympics.

Nick Symmonds, a world silver medalist over 800m, has over the last few years spoken out about the poor earnings of athletes in the sport of athletics. Symmonds states that the sport is run by semi-pro and mostly amateur governing bodies and that all individual advertising is forbidden at the events which experience the highest public exposure. Therefore, the earnings of athletes deteriorate drastically. In a public stunt at the Olympic Games in London 4 years ago he made $11,100 (£8,413) by selling part of his skin on his upper arm to a marketing agency called Hanson Dodge Creative. Unfortunately, Symmonds had to cover up the sponsors logo on his arm as the only advertising that was allowed were the logos on his uniform. Despite the cover up of the tattoo he showed the world of athletics how much money athletes are missing out on and what the potential earnings are, would athletes be allowed to advertise individual sponsors.

  • History

The first modern Olympic Games held in 1896 Athens saw a number of 9 sports involved: artistic gymnastics, athletics, cycling (road & track), fencing, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, greco-roman wrestling. While athletics and swimming has been part of every modern and ancient Olympic Games, golf has been added to the Olympic program for the first time since its conception at this Olympic Games in Rio. Thus, making the Olympic Games less significant for sports like golf, which have been added to the program in more recent times. This may very well be what Rory McIlroy meant by when he said he will only be watching ‘’the stuff that matters’’, meaning that the longer the sports been involved in the Olympics, the more it matters. However, in order to create history and to establish golf to be one of the sports that ‘matters’ golf-players must participate in the Games, as Olympic chiefs are already looking at whether they should remove golf from future Olympic Games due to the high number of golfers not playing. The Olympics have seen many changes over the last 120 years for example in 1896, a mere 241 men from 14 countries participated at the games, whereas now 27,000 male and female elite athletes from more than 200 countries take part at the prestigious event. Yet, no one claims that the female version of sports are any less relevant to their male equivalents although it wasn’t until 2012 that every participating country had at least one female athlete competing. A timeline showing every change to the Olympic Games can be found HERE.

  • Media coverage

Does the attention paid by the media and the public play a part in how much a sport ‘matters’? During the London Olympics in 2012, football was the most popular sport based on the 5 million tweets about it. The most tweeted about athlete was Usain Bolt with over 1 million tweets, while his second gold medal in the 200m was the most tweeted about event of the whole competition. Additionally, derived from the number of articles published about athletics, it proves to be the most popular sport by a long margin with swimming coming in second and football third. Finally, the publics favourite Olympic sport voted by poll for Rio 2016 is the same as in 2012 and is gymnastics. Athletics was voted second favourite, while swimming was voted third. The sports voted least favourite are equestrian and race walking. While superstars like Usain Bolt and Mo Farah receive the most media attention, they also advertise the sport of athletics in the grand scheme of things, meaning that athletics will not only be voted as one of the publics favourite but will also be the most talked about by the media and on social media during the Olympic Games. Whether this makes athletics ‘matter’ more than other sports is questionable, as it is all subjective to the viewer and viewings aren’t everything. No matter what sport one competes in, it involves hours of training every week to be good enough to be invited to an Olympic Games. Therefore, just because a sport is more popular with the media and the public it does not qualify it to matter more.

The Olympic Games are known to the world as an event that unites nations and teaches people about different cultures while athletes compete in a friendly and competitive environment. That is why all athletes that are presented with the opportunity to compete at an Olympic Games should take it, as not many people will get the chance to do so; even after years of training towards it. It is a unique experience that will often be a once in a lifetime opportunity whether you come last or you win gold, experiences can and will be remembered and cherished forever. It is said that the secret to happiness is that one should spend ones money on experiences so why waste an experience when it is offered to you at no personal expense.