Chapter 5

The Significance of Global Sports

World competition for the prestige of the state or for individual glory inspired changes for good and ill. Amateurism, the status of women, racial attitudes, technology, sports medicine, drug usage, the commercialism of sport, and sports architecture experienced major shifts, and it is with these changes that the importance of modern sports is found.


Amateurism

The concept of amateurism evaporated in the heated friction of the Cold War. Earlier, the amateur ideal had caused difficulties with broken-time payments in English rugby and with poor American athletes. The most notorious episode in US history involved James F. "Jim" Thorpe (1888-1953), an American Indian of mixed Irish, French, and Sac-Fox tribal ancestry. He attended the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania where he proved to be an outstanding all-around athlete. On the American Olympic team he won both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Games. When King Gustav of Sweden presented him with his medals he said, "You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." To the delight of anti-aristocratic Americans Thorpe replied simply, "Thanks, King."

To his misfortune the next year a reporter uncovered that Thorpe had played semiprofessional baseball during the summers for $15 per week. Although it was a common practice among college athletes of the time the acceptance of pay for sport meant that Thorpe was a professional. The Olympic officials who idolized amateurism demanded the return of his medals. Disgraced, Thorpe complied and went on to a career in professional football and baseball. Years later, after his death the IOC changed its position on amateurism and presented replica medals to his daughter.

It was the success of the Soviet sports machine that forced a different stance on amateurism in the West. When the USSR joined the Olympic movement in 1948 the IOC refused to oppose the professionalism of Soviet athletes. It was considered more important to have the USSR within the

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Sports in World History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Athletic Imperative and the Reasons for Sport 9
  • Chapter 3 - The Emergence of Modern Sports 31
  • Chapter 4 - The Globalization of Sport 63
  • Chapter 5 - The Significance of Global Sports 91
  • Index 119
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