Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the two thousand eight
summer Olympic games. They open August
eighth in China's capital, Beijing.
than ten thousand men and women will compete for twenty-one days at the Beijing
Olympics. They are representing more
than two hundred nations. National
pride is an important part of the Olympic games. For example, Aminata Diouf will leave her beauty care business in
Senegal to represent her country in track and field. This will be her third trip to the Olympics. She says the experience is always emotional.
AMINATA DIOUF: "I feel like an ambassador, who is very proud. It is this motivation that makes you want to
train at two hundred percent of your abilities. The goal is to satisfy an
the competitors have the same dream -- to win a gold medal. But not all dreams are equal. Athletic training costs a lot of money. So athletes from industrial countries
usually win more medals than those from developing countries. How a country pays for its Olympic program
shows that nation's social and political values.
Kenya, for example, the government pays all the costs for the country's Olympic
program. The Kenyan Athletic
Association says its budget is about one million, five hundred thousand
dollars. It plans to send eighty
athletes to the Beijing Olympics.
Kenya's best hopes for an Olympic medal is Robert Cheruiyot. He is known in the United States for running
in the Boston Marathon. He has won the
race four times. He says: "When I
am running I can hear the national song of Kenya. When I train I can hear Kenya's national song." But the runner has not received any money
from the Kenyan government to prepare for the Olympics in Beijing.
Wallechinsky has written several books about the Olympics. He says some government-supported Olympic
programs are poorly operated.
DAVID WALLECHINSKY: "The problem is, like anything else you put the
government in charge of, there is a certain amount of corruption in most of
these countries. A lot of the officials
take most of the money, and it doesn't really get to the athletes. Not all countries are like that, but it is
Russia, public money and donations from private businesses support Olympic
athletes. But Russian Olympic cyclist
Sergei Ruban says some donors are only interested in sports that are popular on
television. He says companies want the
attention that comes from being linked to popular athletes.
United States is one of only three countries where Olympic athletes receive no
government money. Instead, the United
States Olympic Committee receives money from the sale of television broadcast
rights and donations from businesses.
Roush is chief of sports performance with the United States Olympic
Committee. He says America's Olympic
program must compete for financial support with professional sports teams.
Roush says that, like in Russia, businesses in the United States like popular
sports more than others. Many Olympic
gold medal winners from the United States later make millions of dollars by
advertising products. These include the
top swimmers and gymnasts.
some private projects support athletes in less popular sports like distance
running. For example, Keith Hanson and
his brother own shoe stores in Detroit, Michigan. They provide distance runners with free housing, health care,
training, free running shoes and part-time jobs in their stores.
games include more than three hundred sporting events. Professional athletes will compete in many
events, like swimming and basketball.
But many athletes who have never earned money from sports will compete
in other events. These amateur athletes
will probably never become rich or famous.
They must balance work at their jobs with training. They also struggle to pay for their own
travel and other costs. Still they do
it all for the chance to seek the Olympic dream.
Roush of the United States Olympic Committee notes that common people all
around the world work very hard to win a place on an Olympic team.
STEVE ROUSH: "I
think it's the purity of the Olympics that changes people's mindset. I also
think there is a thing that I refer to as Olympic fever. Sometimes when you
catch that, it's very hard to do anything but pursue it."
Roush says the general public still likes amateur athletes better than
professionals because they are sacrificing so much. He says the amateur athletes who compete in Beijing will
influence Olympic hopefuls around the world.
International Olympic Committee bans the use of drugs that improve
performance. The World Anti-Doping
Agency says the drugs threaten the quality of the competition and also may
cause health risks. Yet some athletes
have reportedly been using banned substances like steroids to improve their
performance for years.
year, American runner Marion Jones admitted that she lied to investigators
about using performance-enhancing drugs.
The five medals she won at the two thousand Olympics were taken away
from her. And she was sentenced to six
months in prison. Experts say this
sends a message that performance-enhancing drugs are not accepted.
United States Anti-Doping Agency is supposed to guarantee that no athletes use
such drugs. It performs eight thousand
tests a year on American Olympians to find evidence of banned drugs like
steroids. These drugs can build muscle
but also may lead to kidney disease and cancer. The agency provides guidance about which drugs are banned. And it punishes athletes who violate the
countries now have programs to test and help Olympic athletes. For example, South Korea's Olympic program
urges athletes to talk to medical experts before taking any medicines. Jang Sung-ho is a former Olympic medal
winner. He said Olympic athletes today
are careful because past athletes lost medals for unknowingly using banned
example, he said a runner once broke the rules by taking cold medicine that he
bought in a drug store. Now all South
Korean athletes get such medicines from their training center.
education and enforcement have made cheating with drugs more difficult. But experts say it is still possible. Peter Sonksen is a professor at Saint Thomas
Hospital in London. He has advised the
International Olympic Committee on doping.
Doctor Sonksen says new drugs like human growth hormone are hard to
discover in drug tests. He says new
tests should be developed to keep sports free of drugs. Anti-doping officials say most athletes
welcome increased testing as a way to guarantee the honesty of the Olympic
has long been used in sports to improve athletic performance. But this helps athletes in countries that
have more technology.
example, the International Sports Federation approved the use of a high-tech
swimsuit called the LZR Racer.
It reduces form drag while the athlete is swimming quickly through the
water. It also helps keep the athlete's
body position in the water. Athletes
wearing the LZR Racer have broken more than forty world swimming records since
February. The swimsuit costs more than
five hundred dollars. Critics have
compared it to taking performance-enhancing drugs.
also has helped South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who lost both his
legs. He uses two specially made legs
that have racing blades as feet. At
first, the International Association of Athletics Federations barred him from
competing. It said his man-made legs
would permit him to run faster without working as hard as he would on two real
Pistorius won a decision permitting him to compete. But he failed to run fast enough during time trials last
week. So he was not chosen for South
Africa's Olympic team.
Olympic officials say technology may not be so important after all. They say the competitions will be decided by
the ability and hard work of the athletes.
This program was written by
Brian Padden and adapted by Shelley Gollust.
Our producer was Lawan Davis.
I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. You can download audio and read scripts on
our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.
Correction: A photo caption on this page misidentifies China's newly
built Shenyang Olympic Sports Center Stadium as Wulihe Stadium. Wulihe
Stadium was torn down in 2007.