Jonathan Edwards: Prize money simply has no place at the Olympics

By // Sports | Jonathan Edwards: Prize money simply has no place at the Olympics
Email to a friend Plain text Print version // Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

PUBLISHED: 16:07 EST, 28 July 2012 | UPDATED: 16:07 EST, 28 July 2012


'With $6 billion exchanging hands during the Olympics, why do athletes compete for free?' 400m bronze medallist Sanya Richards-Ross on Twitter

At face value, I understand Sanya's point. It is an indisputable fact that the Olympics are a billion-dollar economy - and that economy revolves around athletes competing at the Games.

A logical conclusion is to ask, as the American did last week: Why don't the athletes get a part of the action?

For me, the issue is not so straightforward.

Asking the question: Sanya Richards-Ross

Question time: Sanya Richards-Ross

While the Olympics are undeniably underpinned by huge commercial contracts, the public perceive the Games as standing for something different from other sporting events.

The fact that Roger Federer won £1million for winning Wimbledon doesn't change anyone's perspective on the tournament's status as the greatest tennis championship in the world. It's the same story for The Open Championship. Ernie Els's handsome reward for lifting the Claret Jug does not change how it is viewed as the most prestigious golf tournament of them all.

I don't think the Olympics are like that. For those attending the Games for the next fortnight, or watching them on TV around the world, they are judged by a different standard. It's about being the best you can be simply for the sake of it.

Although all sporting achievement is governed by a set of values, it's at the Olympic Games where that connection is most vividly made. When everyone else is making money, it seems contradictory to suggest athletes should not be paid. But I genuinely believe that would diminish the Olympic movement and fundamentally change the relationship the Games have with the public.

The Olympics would no longer hold the special appeal they have today. They would fall foul of the law of unintended consequences. Cash rewards would radically reduce the unique qualities of the Games, diminishing the commercial earning potential of Olympic champions.

Let me give an example of what I mean. Outside of the Olympics, rowing is not a sport that really registers hugely in the public conscience.

Golden time: Jonathan Edwards celebrates in Sydney

Golden time: Jonathan Edwards celebrates in Sydney

Yet by becoming Olympic champions, men such as Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell have been able to create and maintain careers, around their sport and beyond, long after they retired from rowing.

In the short term, they might have earned a little more, but, in the long term definitely not. That goes for a lot of people. From personal experience, I know that an Olympic gold medal has a currency of its own.

Quite recently I was invited to attend a corporate function in the United States for 6,000 people. I could imagine them all muttering, "Who is this English guy?" But once I was introduced as an Olympic champion there was an acceptance of my presence. People love to see an Olympic gold medal. No other medal has the same attraction.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin's ideal, as father of the modern Olympics, was to maintain that it is not just winning that matters. Even more than 100 years later that still resonates.

It is as if the athlete's participation, for no direct renumeration, is the last guardian of that ideal.

Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, summed up what the Olympics can achieve when he said: 'There may be only one winner in each event, but there can be many champions.'

Reward: Sir Steve Redgrave

Reward: Sir Steve Redgrave

Athletes should also consider that the IOC distribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the National Olympic Committees of competing countries.

And the United States do better out of this funding than any other country in the world, with their NOC using the funds to improve facilities for athletes in America.

Furthermore, elite athletes can have their earnings hugely enhanced in Olympic year when promoters offer a considerable uplift in appearance fees. Big sponsors look to appoint Olympic champions, or medallists, as ambassadors in a way they do not recruit world champions.

Commercialism is at the Olympics to stay, through the necessity of putting on the kind of grandiose sporting show we are about to witness in our country.

But, for me, it would be a retrograde step, for the Games and the athletes, if that commercialism was to include paying prize money.

Please don't let Phelps and Bolt look like mere mortals

Splash and burn: Phelps on his way to finishing fourth in the 400m individual medley final

Splash and burn: Phelps on his way to finishing fourth in the 400m individual medley final

I want Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps to conclude these Olympics still regarded as the sporting gods they became in Beijing four years ago.

I don't want Bolt to be beaten by his fellow Jamaicans Yohan Blake or Asafa Powell, or by Americans Tyson Gay or Justin Gatlin. And I don't want Phelps to lose out to American compatriot Ryan Lochte in the pool.

Regrettably, Phelps's Olympics began miserably as he finished fourth to Lochte's magnificent gold in the 400m individual medley.

I liked the fact that Bolt and Phelps have showed themselves to be almost superhuman. In Beijing, I watched Bolt as a fan, not an exathlete, and was blown away by him. He made all other athletes appear ordinary. I watched Phelps in the Olympic pool and everyone, and everything, just stood still.

But the truth is that Bolt and Phelps have much to do to defend their titles - and reputations - at London's Games. The fact that Bolt was disqualified in the 100m final at the World Championships last year did not alarm as much as Blake winning the 200m shortly afterwards in Brussels in 19.26sec, just outside Bolt's world record. The look on Bolt's face was one of pure shock.

I assumed that Bolt would spend the winter getting in better shape than ever. It doesn't seem to have worked out that way. Last week he said he was 95 per cent fit. That didn't sound too convincing.

He is the biggest name at the Olympics - perhaps the biggest name in sport. He exudes warmth and charm. His appearance in the Olympic Village last week brought the place to a halt. I want Bolt to win in London in the way he did in Beijing, in a manner that says: 'I am special.'

However, the stark truth for a man like him is that unless he wins the 100m and 200m he will have failed at London 2012. Bolt himself has said that to be deemed a legend, he has to win in London. Phelps now has six races left to redeem himself following last night's disappointing performance.

With no disrespect to those competing against them, I just don't want Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps to be exposed at these Olympics as normal human beings like the rest of us.

Danny's spectacular made me so proud

Explosive: Opening ceremony

Explosive: Opening ceremony

I have never been more proud to be British than during London's opening ceremony on Friday night. Not when I stood on the podium as Olympic champion in Sydney, nor when I broke the world triple jump record. Director Danny Boyle is a genius. The Olympics is about being the best you can be.

It's hard to see Danny topping the party that he threw for the world on behalf of London 2012 but it's important to remember that was just the curtain-raiser for two weeks of, hopefully, magnificent sport.

I enjoyed a quiet, reflective glass of champagne with Seb Coe, his wife Carol, Charles Allen and Tessa Jowell at 2am.

An hour later, our marketing director was out ensuring the branding was right for the start of yesterday's road race. The work never stops.

Tagged : No tags for this article

Headlines Newsview all

Amanda Holden at the centre of Twitter backlash as she sends daughter to school dressed as Pretty Woman prostitute for fancy dress day

A parenting group has slammed TV star Amanda Holden for posting a picture of her nine-year-old daughter 'dressed as a prostitute' online.The Britain's Got Talent ... Full story

Grandmother filmed confronting militants and branding them 'devils' before quoting verses in the Koran that forbid slaughter

An incredible video has emerged showing the moment an elderly woman bravely confronted two Islamic State militants, telling them their terror group is cursed and ... Full story

Jobseeker shocked to be sent rudest rejection email ever calling him an 'old, aesthetically challenged professional pr*** with no teeth'

A jobseeker was shocked after he was branded as 'irritating', 'rude' and 'obnoxious' in a cutting email accidentally sent to him by a prospective employer.James ... Full story

Youngsters turning their backs on binge drinking with 40% surge in teetotal teens and students

Teenagers and young adults are turning their backs on binge drinking, dramatic new figures have revealed.The proportion of teetotal 16-to-24 year olds has rocketed by ... Full story

Talented 18-year-old pianist who had won a place at Cambridge University was killed by a train after suffering a lapse into deep depression

A gifted 18-year-old pupil who had won a place at Cambridge University was killed by a train after suffering a lapse into 'deep depression', his ... Full story

Former PE teacher, 91, becomes oldest person ever sent to prison for the first time after being found guilty of string of sex attacks on boys

A 91-year-old former teacher has become the oldest person to be sent to prison for the first time after he was jailed for carrying out ... Full story

Beauty therapist who posted dozens of weight loss selfies showing off her new slim figure on Facebook is reported for encouraging nudity

A beauty therapist who posted dozens of 'selfie' pictures of her new slimline figure on Facebook said she was shocked and upset after being reported ... Full story

Parents slam former Ofsted boss Zenna Atkins who is now chair of school governors over x-rated messages she posted on public Facebook page

Parents have slammed a former Ofsted chief who is now chairman of a school's governing board over x-rated messages she posted on Facebook.Zenna Atkins, who ... Full story

Taxpayers forked out £2,300 a month for council boss on £195,000 a year salary to drive luxury Porsche

Taxpayers paid out more than £2,300 a month for a council chief executive on a £195,000 a year salary to drive around in a luxury ... Full story

30 signs YOUR relationship has hit the comfort zone (and will go the distance)

Do you go au natural around your partner, chat to them while naked and do their laundry? You've officially hit the comfort zone.New research reveals ... Full story

Number of Muslim children in England and Wales doubles in a decade with one in 12 school pupils now brought up in Islamic home

The number of Muslim children in England and Wales has doubled in a decade, according to the most detailed study of its kind.An analysis of ... Full story

Comment on: Jonathan Edwards: Prize money simply has no place at the Olympics

Rate this article


Breaking News

Goulburn prison escapee Beau Wiles and his girlfriend face court

Beau Wiles, 25, and his girlfriend appeared in court after he escaped prisonThe prisoner escaped from minimum security within Goulburn Prison He was captured by police ...

Millionaire environmentalist Zac Goldsmith chosen as the Tory candidate to succeed Boris Johnson as London mayor

Conservative backbencher elected with 70% of the vote, Tories confirrmHe will now fight Labour's Sadiq Khan to succeed Boris JohnsonMr Goldsmith is an outspoken ...

Dartmoor ponies are to be PAINTED with reflective markings in a bid to stop them being run over on dark country roads 

Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society have started painting their animalsReflective strips applied to ponies' sides and rear-end to warn night trafficSixty equines already been killed this ...

Chris Mintz was shot as he charged the Umpqua Community College shooter in Oregon

Chris Mintz, 30, was taken to hospital following the college shooting Started the day by wishing his son, six, 'Happy Birthday' on FacebookHe then headed to ...

Voyeur who hid mini camera to spy on customers undressing in Asda disabled changing room is jailed for a year 

Christopher Robinson, 44, attempted to record videos of women at AsdaHe failed when the camera fell of its mount and found lying on floor by ...

Titanic’s last lunch menu which was saved by a fleeing first-class passenger sells for £58k

The Titanic served Fillets of Brill and Chicken Maryland on its last dayThe doomed liner offered potatoes that were mashed, fried or bakedIced Munich lager ...

Israeli military condemns 'barbaric attack by Palestinian assailant'

Military says forces are scouring area near Palestinian village Beit FurikFour children in car received minor injuries in attack but parents diedIt comes amid unrest ...

British Army launching recruitment drive after Sandhurst sees fall in numbers

British Army is launching its first recruitment campaign in almost a decadeLast year, only 81 per cent of posts filled at training academy in SandhurstDrop-off ...

Two people hurt after ‘shooting outside police headquarters’ in Parramatta, west of Sydney

Two men have reportedly been shot dead outside a police headquarters Multiple shots were fired just 700m from the main station in ParramattaWitnesses reported seeing ...

Russia taunts Philip Hammond on Twitter over air strikes on Syria

Russian and British officials engaged in a diplomatic spat on Twitter Clash came as US issued warning about Russian involvement in SyriaThe Russian Embassy taunted ...