Over the years the Olympic Games, like so many public events, have become very commercialized. The luster of the games has dimmed.
Still, the Olympics remain the biggest stage to bring the world's greatest athletes together to compete for their countries. And when these athletes win a medal they receive the great honor of seeing their nation's flag raised and hearing its national anthem played. It often moves them, and their countrymen, to tears.
So when two-time Olympic gold medal winner Dwayne Wade, a star on the Miami Heat pro basketball team, said he agrees with Boston Celtics player Ray Allen that players should be paid for participating, he got a lot of, well, heat.
Many were outraged that Wade and Allen seem to be putting money above patriotism.
"You talk about the patriotism that guys should want to play for, but you (need to) find a way to entice the guys," Allen told FoxSports.com. "It's not the easiest thing in the world if you play deep in the playoffs and then you get two, three weeks off and then you start training again to play more basketball, where it requires you to be away from home and in another country. It's fun, but your body does need a break."
Wade said he agreed.
"It's a lot of things you do for the Olympics - a lot of jerseys you sell," Wade said after a Heat practice. "We play the whole summer. I do think guys should be compensated. Just like I think college players should be compensated as well. Unfortunately, it's not there. But I think it should be something, you know, there for it."
But less than 24 hours later Wade was distancing himself from his own comments.
"I do not want to be paid to go to the Olympics," said Wade, who is expected to play for the U.S. in London this summer. He later tweeted that pride for his country "motivates me more than any $$$ amount."
Wade got it right - this time.
Athletes in low-profile sports such as badminton, archery and table tennis make huge sacrifices - including financial ones - to compete on the U.S. Olympic team.
Professional athletes, particularly those good enough to make an Olympic team, are extremely well paid. In addition, most of the big-time players have huge endorsement deals.
Wade's Heat teammate, LeBron James, understood that the second the question of Olympic pay came his way.
"I love representing my country, man," James told ESPN.com. "I've done it since 2004 and I'm looking forward to doing it in London. As far as (pay), I don't know, man. It doesn't matter. I'm happy to be a part of the team, to be selected again."
Exactly. Top athletes have an obligation as Americans to represent their country. It is an honor that shouldn't require compensation.