"Sci-Tech Today talks about the role of technology in the Olympics from a unique perspective:
Every advance in the ever-accelerating juggernaut of sports technology threatens to widen the divide between Olympic haves and have-nots. Well-sponsored teams and rich governments pay top-end scientists and engineers to shape their skis, perfect their skates, tighten their suits, measure their gravitational pull.
I'm no luddite, but this seems to make these sports more about who can afford the best tech, and less about the true spirit of the games: bringing the best athletes from all countries together to compete. How can it be about the athletes, when some of the best athletes may never win due to lack of funding/tech?"
I am not sure the participation element has ever gone away. I saw on TV earlier this week footage of the athletes from a skiing event signing each-others jerseys. Comradery and sportsmanship are still a major factor here. Plus, would you want to see an Olympic athlete just show up? Or do you want them to do their very best to win? I think we all would feel cheated if the guy in first place held back because he knew the others couldn't keep up. Doing your best at this level means trying to win.
No, I wouldn't want to see an Olympic athlete just show up. However, I did get to admire an athlete, in a long distance race, quite a few years ago, who, even though she must have realized that she was way out of her competitors' league, she did not give up. She gave it her best, and barely made it to the finish line, staggering, long after the others had crossed it, collapsing after crossing the finish line herself. That is participation! Remember: participation is not just a matter of signing up in a list of participants. You have to qualify to compete with the best, so getting your name in that list is a major achievement in itself. Even if you finish last, nobody can take that away from you.
These days we have "hares", who will sprint for a couple of rounds then quit, supposedly to make the others run faster and break the record, even though they all know that they needn't bother to match the hare's pace.
If we need to argue whether Pierre de Coubertin's quote, that I mentioned earlier, is correct or not, then obviously we deserve what we get with the modern version of the Olympic games.