August 10, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) What do you get the pro athlete who has everything?

How about a cramped room, bad food and enough bug spray to last a lifetime?

Welcome to the Rio Olympics and a new twist on the old game show, ''Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'' In this case, we're asking millionaires ''Who Wants to Be an Olympian?''

For all those who answered ''no'' because of concerns over the Zika virus, we present this contrasting view from U.S. golfer Patrick Reed:

''Mosquitoes are mosquitoes,'' he said. ''You see them all around the world.''

And all those other basketball, golf and tennis tycoons who didn't think the Olympics were a big enough deal should have seen Serb Novak Djokovic, the biggest earner in men's tennis history, reduced to tears after being upset in the first round by Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro. Or watched Venus and sister Serena Williams, the richest female athlete in the world, wheeling their own luggage carts through the arrival area of the Rio airport without a single toady in tow.

Never mind that this was the fourth Olympics for Venus and third for Serena, who missed the 2004 Games due to knee surgery, and that each has her own singles gold medal and three more golds from playing doubles together. Serena said it never gets old.

''To play for a medal is actually something I never dreamed of,'' she said, ''because growing up, we always just wanted to go for the Grand Slam (tournaments).

''But to have this opportunity to be among the elite of the elite, where you're not the center of attention,'' she added a moment later, ''is just awesome.''

Professionals were first allowed in the 1988 games - officially, at least - and when USA Basketball's Michael Jordan-led ''Dream Team'' showed up four years later in Barcelona, everyone knew it would be a tough act to follow. No pros have caused anywhere near the same stir since.

That hasn't stopped them from trying. And to be fair, none of them need the bonus money that a gold medal might bring.

According to a list compiled by, the top dozen earners at these games took home an average of $32 million in the past 12 months, led by just-signed Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant at $56.2 million. Five of the athletes each were drawn from basketball and tennis; the other two were Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and home-grown soccer star Neymar.

So while some play for the flag and others for the all-expenses-paid vacation, others, like Serena, show up to see how the best in other sports get to the top and stay there. Still others, like NBA star Carmelo Anthony, come to win the championships they've been denied back home.

Klay Thompson already won an NBA championship with Golden State two years ago. But after his Warriors lost this year's Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the last thing he wanted to do ''was sit home and sulk over what could have been.

''You see what it means to all these other guys and I wanted to experience that. Besides,'' Thompson added, ''nothing is ever guaranteed.''

Just before practice Wednesday - at the training ground of revered Brazilian soccer club Flamengo - a handful of his USA Basketball teammates made the hike up the nearby hill to see the iconic "Christ the Redeemer" statue. But not - as Cleveland-based AP sportswriter Tom Withers cracked - to make sure it hadn't been replaced by a statue of LeBron James.

Teammate Jimmy Butler saw the statue on a previous trip to Rio with the Chicago Bulls. Asked what sightseeing he's done this time around, he replied grumpily, ''So far, the inside of my room mostly.''

But don't feel too bad for Butler. Both the U.S. men's and women's teams are staying on the luxurious Silver Cloud cruise ship.

Several players went to swimming Tuesday night to see Michael Phelps as he won his 21st gold medal.

Several golfers, including Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, opted for the athletes' village instead, where pingpong tournaments and other late-night diversions are legendary.

''Many liken it to a high school cafeteria,'' former USA women's soccer player and current TV analyst Julie Foudy said memorably a few years ago, ''except everyone's beautiful. We'd graze over our food for hours watching all the eye candy, wondering why I got married.''

Others expect to take home slightly more wholesome souvenirs.

''I can't wait for my little daughter to get old enough so I can tell her, `Hey, your dad's been an Olympian,'" Reed said. ''I can show her the pictures from the week, show her pictures of us hanging out with the guys . It's so cool. ''


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at) and

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