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
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
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
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. …