The Competition To Compete

How to boost your chances of becoming an Olympian:

Peter Spiro wants to allow for Olympic free agents:

A club sports model would hardly eliminate the correlation between country of origin and country of competition. All things being equal, most athletes will want to play for the country they call home. For big-time athletes in the marquee competitions, getting wrapped up in their national flag is an important part of the performance—no amount of money is going to get Michael Phelps to swim for Qatar. At the same time, a free-agent Olympics would expand opportunities for lesser-known athletes and those in the lower-profile sports, who often struggle even as members of major-country delegations. The threat of player-raiding at that level could spur national Olympic committees and home-country corporations to higher levels of sponsorship.

To the extent that players take the highest bids, fans will learn to adjust, just as Ryan Howard’s St. Louis origins are a nonissue for Phillies fans. And if they do compete under the flag of a different nation, athletes shouldn’t have to swear phony allegiance to a new sovereign. The uniform the player wears should suffice to establish sporting loyalties, for players and fans alike.