Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Athletes Are the Most Important Part of the Olympics. or Are They?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Athletes Are the Most Important Part of the Olympics. or Are They?

Article excerpt

Athletes are the most important part of the Olympics. Or are they?

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Nicole W. Forrester, Assistant Professor, School of Media, Ryerson University

It is an indescribable feeling for an athlete to walk into the opening ceremonies of an Olympic Games. I still get chills thinking about that moment for me at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing when I represented Canada as a high jumper.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with my teammates, there was a realization we were on the doorstep of something great that was about to begin. The journey to become an Olympic athlete may have been different for each of us, but there is a shared appreciation for how hard it is to get to the Olympic Games.

Sports provide athletes with a unique quality, where they are both the consumer and producer of an event. The success of the Olympic Games and any major sporting event is dependent upon the performances of its athletes. To have a great result, the conditions must be optimal.

From the athletes' village to competition venues, a positive experience is essential to ensure a great performance. Understanding the needs of the athletes becomes critical to conduct a successful Games.

Establishing an "athlete-centred" sporting experience has become a ubiquitous pledge of various sport enterprises, including the International Olympic Committee. Even Sport Canada has identified an athlete-centred experience as a factor that provides a leading edge when it comes to high performance.

However, what does it really mean to be athlete-centred?

Athletes involved in decision making

Some researchers have offered a holistic definition, in which athletes are included in the decision-making process. Some have explained it as encompassing the wellbeing of an athlete, while others have defined it as empowering the athlete and providing a sense of belonging.

AthletesCAN, the official voice of all Canadian national team athletes, has determined "athlete centred" to be both a concept and a process, underpinning "the planning, delivery and procedures of organizing sport."

For a term recognized as important in the world of sport, it has failed to be adequately defined. While definitions vary, allowing athletes to have a say in their well-being appears to be a central theme.

In professional sports leagues, player associations ensure the best interests of athletes are served. In amateur sport there are limited associations by athletes for athletes.

Recently, the International Beach Volleyball Players Association was formed out of protest to changes made by the Federation Internationale de Volleyball without the input of athletes. As a result of these changes, beach volleyball players experienced diminished prize earnings and cancelled tournaments.

Likewise, track and field athletes have been working to become unionized for several years. This is a conversation I can remember having with other athletes while I was competing as a high jumper at the international level.

Restrictions on sponsorships

One main issue when it comes to athletes's rights centres around sponsorship. Compared to NASCAR, Formula One Racing or cycling, where athletes can sport numerous sponsor logos on their uniforms, the International Athletic Association Federation, the governing body for track and field, restricts athletes to only one logo no larger than six centimetres.

Rule 40, an IOC by-law which restricts athletes from having their image or performance used for marketing during the Olympic Games, was challenged going into the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Athletes argued the IOC reaped the rewards of sponsorship and broadcasting revenue, while leaving athletes -- the stars of the show -- out in the cold. …

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