5:16 PM Tue, Jun 03, 2008 | Permalink
News Item: Ashley Harkleroad will turn down a berth on the US Olympic team.
And so it goes. Do the Olympic Games matter any more?
Once upon a time the Olympics were billed as a time when the entire world came together to watch the top athletes in their sports. The idea, sport could at least for a couple of weeks give the world a break from all the global conflicts. Even if it was a nice fairy tale, it was an honor to "bring home the gold." Today that golden shine is tarnished.
On the very same day Harkleroad said she was turning down a berth to represent her country, Antonio Pettigrew agreed to return the gold medal he won in 2000 after admitting to doping. Pettigrew is just the latest track athlete to admit what had been long suspected, cheating is rampant.
It wouldn't be so tragic if this was the first. In the '70's, the United States pointed the finger at Eastern Europe as if we were above this kind of thing.
Then in the '80's, Canada was embarrassed after Ben Johnson's gold was stripped. Now instead of a "Hall of Fame", Track and Field may need a "Hall of Shame" which would no doubt include Marion Jones and a host of people who worked for the BALCO lab in California.
No question the push to exceed is huge. It's not just the fame it is the fortune, but then again in some sports like tennis, the Olympic fame is not enough.
Harkleroad joins Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish as tennis players who are passing at the chance to represent the United States in the "Biggest Sporting Event" of the year. Their reasoning, it's happening too close to the US Open which for them is far more important than the Olympics. Never mind the US Open is an annual event, but the financial payout is far more rewarding. Just representing the USA and the chance at Olympic Gold isn't good enough anymore.
Then there are sports like Baseball and Softball which only recently were included in the Summer Games. This summer could be their last appearance unless the International Olympic Committee changes course. It seems the IOC doesn't think there is enough support for those two sports world wide.
Somehow a committee which allows Curling and the Biathlon in the Winter Games should keep America's pastime.
We'll watch this summer as the games talk about fair competition and world peace. And then frown when a biased judge puts up an outrageous score. Do the Olympic Games matter anymore?