The Eddie The Eagle Olympic Rule
Do you remember Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards in the 1988 Olympic Winter Games? If you watched the games at all, you probably do. Eddie was the first professional ski jumper from Great Britain. He competed in the 1988 Calgary Olympic games...and finished last in both events in which he competed.
But what is great about Eddie is that he was basically an everyman. He was self-funded, no corporate or government funding for his training. He is extremely far sighted and must wear these huge dorky glasses. he was also slightly heavier and less toned than the rest of the athletes at the games. You may think this sounds horrible, but it all added up to make him the ultimate underdog.
|Eddie the Eagle (Photo borrowed from here at the BBC)|
Every time Eddie jumped it was inspiring - seeing this normal guy (basically) going for his Olympic dreams. You knew he wasn't going to win...it wasn't even close. But seeing him try and try again with all his heart was magnificent. Personally, I thought Eddie was nothing but beneficial for the Olympics. It was one of the first times that I connected with the Winter Olympics since the whole "Miracle on Ice" thing, but it actually went even deeper than that. I think this was probably the deepest that I connected with any Olympics - Summer or Winter. I am not athletically inclined, I don't really have the genes for it. To me the Olympics always seemed like something that was for all these top 1% people...the people that just happened to be born with not only the right genes but also the right situation to be able to train constantly for the games. Eddie made it seem that almost anyone could be an Olympic athlete if they really wanted to be.
I think Eddie was also beneficial to the Olympics in another way. He provided a measuring stick for the other jumpers. I don't know about you, but watching ski jumping I really can't tell who is doing really well and who is doing poorly. When a half meter can mean the difference from Silver and 6th place, I can't really judge that by watching TV. They all look the same. Eddie provided a starting point to measure the other athletes. Seeing Eddie jump and then the other athletes jump 20-30 meters farther...you could easily tell the difference and it made the other athletes seem that more impressive and amazing.
However, many athletes and officials felt that all the attention that Eddie received was embarrassing and making a mockery of the sport and games. (I think a lot of the attention was due to the fact that he skied with heart and wasn't just a cold and calculating athlete.) So between winter games, the Olympic Committee enacted a rule stating that in order to compete in the games, that an athlete must compete in international competitions and either finish in the top 30% or be in the top 50 athletes, whichever is smaller. Note: Eddie finished 55th in the World Competitions in 1987. Eddie would not qualify for another Olympics.
If this rule was in place in 1988 - we also wouldn't have the Jamaican Bobsled Team. They were able to qualify for later Olympics (and actually end up doing fairly well), but they would never even have gotten a start with this rule. To me, this rule prevents start up athletes and programs and just tightens the grip of the big, wealthy, and long competing countries on their share of medals.
Although I understand that logistically there needs to be some limits on who can compete in the Olympic games, I also think there needs to be some way to get a few amateurs in there to help inspire people and also showcase how good the professionals really are. Some might argue that these people would become laughing stocks and it is better to save them from that...but I think these kind of athletes are the ones that would compete with the most heart and be grateful for whatever happened. It is impossible to mock someone when they love what they are doing. These are the people that most symbolize the Olympic Spirit in my mind.
Eddie, Thanks for the great memories!