Pierre de Coubertin, at least openly, had mostly aesthetic and spiritual reasons for reviving the old Greek concept of the Olympic Games in its modern format in 1896.
The actual games played resemble less and less the original list of events as each modern edition of the modern Games comes and goes. In Tokyo 2020 surfing, sport climbing and skateboarding will each make their debut.
Apart from a bit of rope climbing in the gym, the old Baron could have even envisaged any of those as sports let alone part of the Games. And women will achieve equality with men in terms of events contested – and in some team events the contest will be mixed.
The cost of staging the Games has always been an issue relative to the times and the surrounding circumstances but these days the level of commercialism is way beyond de Coubertin’s wildest dreams.
The only means of telling the world about the Games in 1896 was via the work of the written press. Radio and television have gradually made massive impacts in broadcast first the news and then quickly the live action.
Now it’s the internet and all forms of applications, social media and e-casting that tell every story instantaneously – the good bits, the bad bits and the ugly bits.
Which really only leaves one thing that could and should be changed – a bit of commercial respect for those who make the Games.
Since the Games as we know them began in 1896 there has been no prize money paid to the athletes. Such was and remains the allure and importance of the Games in an athlete’s life that the vast majority of the top contenders along with many others commit to participation for as many editions as they can.
For the majority they do it accepting that it is for fame, glory and self-satisfaction. For the lucky ones there will be monetary rewards as a result of doing well.
Some national governments and national Olympic committees pay bonuses for medals and other good results.
But’s all a bit hit and miss. It shouldn’t be.
The time is long gone when the IOC and organising committees can run the line that the athletes ought to participate for the honour and glory. Plenty of others have got their noses in the trough every time a Games comes around – so why shouldn’t the stars.
The IOC has massive reserves. It has audacious premises and a museum in Switzerland. It pockets a fair percentage of the sponsorship, restricts significantly what each organising committee can sell-off whilst expecting the hosts to cover the majority of the huge costs of staging an edition of the Games.
No wonder cities all over the world are now making an art-form of expressing interest in hosting either the summer or winter Olympics and then pulling out after drilling down on the costs and benefits.
It’s well and truly time that the very simple concept of paying prize money at least to medalists but hopefully a bit further depending on how many athletes start out in each event.
It doesn’t have to be silly money like the tennis players will earn at the Australian Open Tennis starting in Melbourne this week where even those who exit in the first round will be paid handsomely at $50,000 a pop.
But if one tournament in one sport can come up with $60 million in prize money every year then surely the great sports festival on earth can manage to do the something along those lines every two years.
Athletics provides a good guide as to what might be reasonable. Its pays down to eighth for each world championships for a total payout every two years of around $10 million.
It’s the biggest sport in terms of the number of events by far so most won’t require anywhere near that sort of investment by the IOC.
If it’s hard for Thomas Bach and his colleagues to budget for that right now, then they can look at some of the marketing opportunities that they still don’t exploit fully.
But in reality there should be no excuse – it’s simply the right thing to do.