, автор: Быстрова А.

Money and youth. Why is the World Cup more prestigious than the Olympics

The first World Cup was held in 1930 and for many decades has remained the main tournament in world soccer.

Источник фото: Владимир Песня / Sputnik

Olympic gold is the dream of most athletes on the planet. In order to win it, they are willing to make any sacrifice. And perhaps only in soccer it is different: in the most popular game on the planet, the World Cup is more important than the Olympics. It is not without reason that Lionel Messi, who won the gold medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing, admitted that he would have easily exchanged this award for a similar one from the World Championship.

Soccer first appeared at the Summer Olympics in 1900 in Paris, when the British team won gold ahead of their rivals from France and Belgium. Until 1930 the Olympic tournaments were the main international soccer competition. It was then that the first World Cup was held in Uruguay.

Soccer was gradually moving towards professionalization - that is, for the players themselves the game was the main activity in life, for which they received a salary. Whereas only amateurs were allowed to attend the Olympics - that is, people who had other jobs and played soccer in their leisure time, not earning money.

After World War II, the soccer tournaments of the Olympics were dominated by teams from socialist countries. This is not surprising: professional sports did not legally exist there, although in fact they did - the athletes were listed as employees of the enterprises and organizations that supervised the sports clubs. But in reality, electricians and locksmiths, policemen and servicemen were just as professional athletes as they were in the West. From 1952 to 1980, Olympic soccer gold was won only by teams from the socialist countries: three times for Hungary, once each for the USSR, Yugoslavia, Poland, the GDR, and Czechoslovakia.

In 1984 professional soccer players appeared at the Olympics for the first time. True, at first the only exceptions were teams from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Oceania: Europeans and Americans and amateurs were very strong. In 1992 everyone was allowed to include professionals in Olympic soccer teams, but at the same time they limited the age of the players to 23 years. In 1996, they allowed three players over that age limit - but no more.

Naturally, the tournament, the composition of which was constantly limited, could not compete with the World Cup, in which the strongest players in the world played. This situation persists to this day, and what is more, it is getting worse. First, at the Olympics, even without soccer there is a lot to watch and cheer for. Secondly, the number of teams playing in the World Championships is growing: in 1982 there were 24 teams, in 1998 there were 32, and by 2026 there will be 48. At the Olympics for a long time there are only 16 participants. Huge amounts of money are pumped into the World Championships, their advertising is massive and loud, and dozens of stadiums are built for them. Olympic soccer tournaments can only dream of such an audience, of such television interest, of such business interest. And until age restrictions on Olympic soccer players are lifted, the situation will never change.