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How to Help Team USA in Future Olympics

August 15th, 2012 · No Comments · USA Olympics

Here in the United States, one thing that was universal in the recent Olympics was watching the medal count. Whether it was my 10 year old niece or our company president, it’s something I heard everyone talking about.

Most self-proclaimed “experts” predicted that as in Beijing, China would take the lead in gold medals, while the USA would take the lead in overall medals. To Team USA’s great credit, they took both.

Just as in the days of the old Soviet Union, there’s something behind this that’s not just jingoism. It’s really a reflection of two different systems.

English: United States Olympic Committee logo.

English: United States Olympic Committee logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The system in the USA is one that celebrates individual achievement. An athlete participates in their sport for the sheer love of the game. They and their families make huge risks and sacrifices to pursue their dream. Some athletes are supported by corporate sponsorships, private contributions, and of course their families. And for those who are lucky and good enough to rise to the top of their sport, they enjoy the rewards that they earned. Where’s the US Government in all this? They provide indirect support by letting its citizens make tax-deductible contributions to organizations that support the athletes, but mostly they keep out of the way.

The system in China is one that’s completely different. Its focus is not on individual achievement but on collectivism. The Chinese government cherry picks from its 1.3 billion people children who show aptitude for different sports. These children are taken out of their schools and put into programs where they can be trained to dominate their sport. In some cases, children go for years without seeing their families. Recent reports have indicated that the Chinese government spent upwards of $1.57 million to train swimmer Sun Yang. And of course, now that Sun Yang won the gold medal and is getting endorsement deals, he will be permitted to keep 1/3 of any earnings, while 2/3 will go back to the system. In a nation with a per-capita income of $7500, that’s still enough to let him live fabulously, but that’s not the point. In China, it’s not about individual achievement, but the collective working together to increase the standing of the government in the world.

To quote Will Smith from a recent TV appearance, “God bless America“.

Of course it’s easy to sit back and decry the system in China while celebrating the system in the USA, but there’s one important thing to remember. The system in the USA only works if individuals step up and do their part. I’m not just talking about the athletes and their families, but every person who still believes in dreaming, everyone who looked at the medal count and smiled with a feeling of pride in what their fellow citizens have accomplished, and everyone who in their own way accomplish things every day in what is still the “land of opportunity”.

So what is “your part”? For starters, it’s understanding that Team USA needs your support. Our athletes aren’t cherry picked for their genetics from birth, and they certainly don’t get $1.57 million to train. In most cases, these are just kids with big dreams who overcome huge odds to be able to compete. They depend on support from organizations like the US Olympic Committee to build training centers and provide coaching, equipment, training, and comunications. And the US Olympic Committee depends on contributions from ordinary Americans. And while the USOC does receive corporate donations, it’s the little contributions from individuals that make the most impact.

If you’ve been enthralled by the performance of Team USA in any sport these past few weeks, don’t take this success for granted. It’s fun to enjoy the successes, but it’s important not to take for granted what it took to get there. Consider a generous donation to the USOC to keep the Olympic dream alive. For a gift of $20 or more, you can choose a free gift (which in any store would easily cost $20 or more).

team usa duffel bagteam usa shirtteam usa hat

If you’re a fan of any individual sport, also consider a donation to that sport’s governing bodies, which also help develop and promote awareness and participation for their sports. Here’s a list of all USA Teams that were part of the 2012 London Games.


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