Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
THE SEOUL OLYMPICS; TENNIS COMPETITORS PROS IN NAME, FACT
By PETER ALFANO
Published: September 11, 1988
New York Times
THERE will be no mistaking who they are and how they came to afford fancy cars and all the modern conveniences. There is no need to hide their net worth in a trust fund. The tennis players who are coming to Seoul, South Korea, are professionals by any definition the International Olympic Committee chooses to use. They are among the rich and famous in the athletic world.
For the first time in 64 years, tennis will be a medal sport in the Olympic Games, and among the hammer throwers, gymnasts, weight lifters and swimmers lodged at the athletes' village will be stars like Steffi Graf and Boris Becker of West Germany, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg of Sweden, Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina, Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia, Henri Leconte of France, Andrei Chesnokov and Natalya Zvereva of the Soviet Union, and Chris Evert and Pam Shriver of the United States.
They are the bigger names in the men's and women's singles and doubles competition, playing for gold instead of money. And contrary to popular opinion, they say they are actually looking forward to it.
"I'm very excited," Graf said. "What I enjoyed in the Los Angeles Olympics was the different scene in the village. It was easy to talk to the athletes."
"To be part of the Olympics is very nice," Edberg said. "I enjoy meeting the other athletes."
Tennis was reinstated as an Olympic sport by the I.O.C. in 1981, after a great deal of lobbying by Philippe Chatrier of France, the president of the International Tennis Federation. Tennis was a demonstration sport at the Summer Games in Los Angeles in 1984, although none of the established professionals were allowed to compete.
Instead, a pair of promising teen-agers, Graf and Edberg, won the women's and the men's singles. They are the current Wimbledon champions.
They were able to participate in the Games this year because of Chatrier's efforts to persuade the I.O.C. to open the Olympics to the best athletes in tennis.
"We did not want a third-class player as Olympic champion," Chatrier said in a telephone interview. In May 1987, at a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, the I.O.C. voted to permit the top professionals to play in the Seoul Olympics on an experimental basis.
Owen Williams, the executive director of World Championship Tennis, said: "I have mixed emotions. Personally, I wouldn't have thought tennis belonged in the Olympics, that a Boris Becker, earning $5 million a year, could play. But the I.O.C. is two-faced. The members have deluded themselves for 50 years that they are running an amateur events."
Chatrier said he had based his appeal on the fact that the best track and field athletes in the world, for example, earned a great deal of money, directly or indirectly.
"I wanted the tennis players to rub shoulders with (Edwin) Moses, Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis, top athletes making money," Chatrier said. "I pleaded that our professionals not be discriminated against. When I hear about the money these others are making in track, I hope it will make people get off my back, leave my millionaires alone."
How will those millionaires be received in Seoul? Chatrier said that the 10,000-seat center-court stadium in seoul is sold out for the last four days. NBC has promised him substantial coverage. The BBC will broadcast 27 hours of tennis to Britain.
Still, Chatrier acknowledges that the Olympics belong to track and field, gymnastics, swimming, boxing and basketball. Tennis will not become a major sport in the Games right away. And there could be problems in the future should the Summer Games conflict with the United States Open. He believes this is an important first step, however.
"It is the most important thing to happen to tennis since the open movement," said Chatrier. "Eighty percent of the governments in the world will not support a sport unless it is in the Olympic Games. This will put those governments behind tennis, add to the boom."