In an eloquent plea Britain's Chris Chataway, a pioneer four-minute-miler and today a Member of Parliament, demands an honest and reasonable Olympic code
The most glaring example of an indistinct and impossible regulation affecting the whole spirit of the Olympic Games is the ruling on amateurism. The pretense that only amateurs may compete, or do compete, is a constant irritant.
The truth is that sport at the Olympic level today takes up too much time for any of the leading performers to be amateurs. All but a few must make money out of their sport, directly or indirectly, even if only in order to carry on with it. The winners of the track and field events in Rome this year will, almost every one of them, have trained at least two hours a day for at least two years. None of these, unless he has private means, can have done that and traveled over the world to get the necessary competition, and at the same time have remained in any meaningful sense of the word an amateur.
Olympic athletes may have been gentlemen amateurs in the period before World War I; today they clearly are not. It may have been reasonable, then, to keep the professionals out; to pretend to do so today is hypocrisy.
The explanation is that the administrators of the Games have more nostalgic memories of amateur sport as it used to be than knowledge of how things have changed. The sooner the Olympics are admitted to be open to both amateurs and professionals alike, the better.
It is not that many would take part who at present cannot, because even now virtually no professionals are successfully excluded. But to drop the pretense would do away with a lot of the subterfuge and a constant source of bickering between the competing nations.
From The Road to Rome, published by William Kimber and Co. Limited.