Suggestion of Olympic Committee Turning Pro Develops into Report

Article excerpt

With his usual bluster, George Steinbrenner has offended the purists who think the Olympic ideal still exists. The essence of his Olympic Overview report is that the United States Olympic Committee needs to turn pro.

But it's time those purists realized that the committee should relinquish its amateur standing.

For years, the joke at the Olympics has been that the only amateurs were the officials, especially U.S. Olympic Committee officials.

Now the Olympic Overview commission, headed by the New York Yankees' principal owner, has, in so many words, told that joke to Robert Helmick, the U.S. Olympic Committee president. And Helmick laughed. But the scary part is that Helmick remains in charge of implementing the critique.

If Helmick, a Des Moines, Iowa, attorney who was an Olympic water polo player, needed a 21-page report to realize what Olympic-watchers without portfolio had been saying for years, maybe he should put somebody else in charge.

Not Steinbrenner, however.

Judging by the Yankee principal owner's impulsive trading of Yankee farmhands, Steinbrenner might swap America's best speed-skating prospect to Norway for a ski-jumper, a biathlete, and a luger to be named later.

If the Olympic committee agrees with the report's suggestion that its marketing, fund-raising and public-relations offices be moved to New York from Colorado Springs, it needs to hire someone to be the boss of its New York operation.

The best possible choice would be Peter Ueberroth, the outgoing baseball commissioner who organized the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Now that the committee appears eager to turn pro, it needs to hire a pro. At a pro's salary.

Beginning April 1, Ueberroth will be at liberty. Anoint him as the U.S. Olympic commissioner. Let him market the U.S. Olympic program the way he marketed millions for the 1984 Olympics, the way he marketed more than a billion for baseball's television contracts.

According to the overview report, the committee might be threatened with ``financial disaster'' as early as 1992 unless its economics are reassessed.

But whenever money is mentioned, Olympic purists are offended. They still cherish the Olympic ideal that the important thing is not to win, but to take part, as proclaimed by the French baron, Pierre de Coubertin, who resurrected the Olympic movement nearly a century ago.

But the new Olympic baron, George Steinbrenner, understands the reality of today's Olympic movement, along with the reality that medals create economic support, especially from the corporate world. …