As jet air travel globalized sport, the distinction between the best amateur and the professional players became impossible to maintain; even the Olympic movement abandoned founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin's original devotion to amateurism.
Still debatable is whether the quantitative change in the number of viewers of television has completely changed the quality of the sporting experience. Do children, for instance, deliberately emulate the petulant and violent player behavior they often see on television, ignoring the coaches who try to instill principles of fair play Do most coaches, at all levels, put winning before the health and welfare of their players Have international players become simply pawns in the hands of the media industry Or has television simply opened up electronic seats for fans and made it impossible for sportswriters and commentators to glorify people and events those fans can now see for themselves Has media money justified itself by providing training and competing opportunities for those who had previously been excluded from sports they could not afford to learn
What is certain is that some sports have always been "more equal than others"; fans choose to what they will give their allegiance. The media can create or increase temporary interest in specific events, but unless what the media discuss or show is rooted in more than the event itself, interest evaporates.
While a complex, rapidly developing sport may be expected to generate many internal problems, synchro's main controversy, "sport or theater," is generated externally, by media that are unwilling to consider as "sport" anything not meeting the "swifter, higher, stronger" standard. But even Sports Illustrated, despite normally less than flattering reviews, admitted in its report on the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, "Synchronized swimmers may look like cupcakes, but they're tough cookies, half the routine is performed upside down in a pool" (Dawn Bean 128). Its water-show beginnings still haunt it. The idea that water ballet is show, while synchronized swimming is sport, has been hard to sell to swimming officials, the public, and the media. Its acceptance into the Olympic Games came only after Lord Killanin, then chair of the International Olympic Committee, saw it for himself at the third World Aquatic Championships. "I am very impressed. I saw synchronized swimming for the first time today. It is a very elegant sport" (Dawn Bean 197).
Synchro enjoys more popularity and acceptance as a sport in parts of the world outside the United States. In every Olympic competition, 1984 through 1996, it has been one of the first sports to sell out all audience tickets.
Another issue is male participation. Interestingly, at the turn of the century competitions in the equivalent of figures were for males. Then the beautiful spectaculars of aquacades and films accented the female attraction. Early U.S. competitions included male championships, but they were never popular. Neither U.S. nor international rules prohibit male participation except for the Olympic Games and the World Aquatic Championships. Presently, male participation is greater in Europe than in the United States and Canada. Indeed, in 1991, the