Olympics: Trying to lose and cash prizes
by Jack Mcneely
Aug 05, 2012 | 640 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack Mcneely
Jack Mcneely
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I am a big fan of the Olympics. I remember vividly when the U.S. men’s ice hockey team outlasted the heavily favored Soviet Union, 4-3, in a qualifying game during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. We went on to defeat Finland for the gold medal.

As an impressionable eighth grader, the “Miracle on Ice” solidified my love of sport and competitive nature.

Now, 32 years later, I wonder how today’s youth are digesting the disqualification of eight female badminton players from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London?

I was shocked when I first heard that teams from China, South Korea and Indonesia actually tried to lose matches so to position themselves better for medal rounds. Then I was stunned to actually watch replays of the “athletes” intentionally serving the birdie into the net and hitting it out of play.

Now, I don’t profess to know much about the nuances of badminton. But at the end of the day, one team should try to defeat the other by giving its all.

Rather, these teams blatantly played to lose so they could face easier opponents in future matches. Even the world’s No. 1 pair, Wang Ziaoli and Yu Yang of China, was disqualified after they intentionally lost to a South Korea team to avoid being in the same bracket as the No. 2 team in the world, also from China.

The goal of China was to have both teams in the final, guaranteeing both the gold and silver medals.

At least the head coach of the Chinese badminton team, Li Yongbo, expressed remorse for what had happened. “I owe the fans and the Chinese an apology,” he said. “Chinese players failed to demonstrate their fighting spirit of the national team. It’s me to blame.”

I wholeheartedly agree. To borrow a phrase from Remember the Titans, “Attitude is a reflection of leadership.”

Cashing in

On another Olympic note, I actually did not know until this week that U.S. athletes that finish first, second or third, in an event receive cash bonuses in addition to their respective medals. Win a gold medal and earn $25,000. Win a silver medal and earn $15,000. Win a bronze medals and receive $10,000.

And, to the dismay of some, they pay taxes on those bonuses.

The Internal Revenue Service takes 35 percent of the cash earnings, or $3,500 from third place, $5,250 from second place and a whopping $8,750 from first place.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill to Congress on Wednesday that would exempt Olympic winners from taxes on earnings at the London games.

I disagree. I pay taxes on my earnings. You pay taxes on your earnings. If an athlete receives a bonus payment, then they, too, should pay taxes.

Do you think American gymnast Gabby Douglas was thinking about her tax obligations when officials draped the gold medal around her neck after edging out two Russians for the women’s all-around title Thursday?

I think not.

Jack McNeely is Publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be reached by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.