Myth of Olympic Athletes in Ancient Greece Not Getting Paid: Busted

A widely known urban sport legend concerning the Olympic Games depicts the ancient Greek athletes as complete amateurs that would receive no compensation for their achievements in the field.

Research, however, has busted this myth and showed that competing in the Olympics was strongly connected to monetary prizes, and professionalism was so common amidst the young athletes of ancient times that the elders would criticize them for abandoning their other studies for the sake of sports.

According to an LA Times report, the idea of the Olympic Games being an institution appealing only to amateurs was developed in Victorian England by men like Dr. William Penny Brookes, founder of the Much Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850, John Hulley, and Charles Melly’s Liverpool Olympics in 1862.

The restoration of the Games in 1896 by Pierre de Coubertin accepted the ideal of Brookes’ amateurism and made it an inseparable part of the Olympic or Summer Games. Based on this idea and rule, Jim Thorpe had to give up his medals won in the Olympics 1912 because it was later discovered that he had played semi-professional baseball during college.

The strict rule of amateurism was loosened after the 70’s, when professional athletes began taking part in most sports of the international institution. This resulted in modern day’s sports records of top athletes competing against one another in the field.


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