But just a couple of weeks after the Games we have seen one Olympian in the Big Brother house and two more going on Strictly Come Dancing, with others appearing in the papers at every photocall, PR launch and advert their advisors send them to .
Is it right that Olympians are crossing over into the world of celebrity culture and blurring the boundaries between sporting excellence and prime-time entertainment? We asked our writers from Eurosport and omg! to argue the toss...
"Trash TV comes with consequences" - Reda from Eurosport
Erudite, hard-working, and victorious — what wasn't there to like about our Olympic heroes? They forced their way into the public consciousness with what they did, displacing the stars of reality TV from our screens.
Much of the disquiet at 'celebrity culture' seems to be directed at those who are simply famous for being famous, like Kim Kardashian or the boys from The Only Way Is Essex - and those who appear to possess a heightened sense of their own importance, or at least those who flex their success in this context.
Olympians do not belong in this category — blood, sweat and tears are the minimum sacrifices for an elite athlete, with most Olympians living on similar or even lower budgets than the average Briton.
Sportsmen and women are not in the public eye because they are mates with a former boyband singer, the offspring of an ex-footballer, or the ex-partner of a minor soap star. They are in the public eye because they touch the pinnacle of achievement, because they deserve it. If they use their newfound status to increase their earnings, so be it. They are not footballers earning exorbitant sums of money.
Many of our Olympians live and train off a combination of public funding, small sponsorship deals and limited private enterprise, so I don't think we can begrudge them the right to perhaps exploit the moment through advertising and sponsorship opportunities, which in themselves benefit from the PR of TV and other media appearances.
As a result, if Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis or Sarah Storey want to appear in TV commercials, promote healthy eating or star in the human equivalent to a dancing bear show, more power to them. They have a basic right to earn a good living for their families, an earning potential limited to the length of their athletic careers that peaks just after an Olympic Games cycle.
But there is, surely, a point at which this line is transgressed, and someone loses what made them a sporting hero and becomes just like any other celebrity.
While viewing figures justify repeat productions, Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing and its ilk of suspended-reality voyeurism leave the kind of aftertaste that you may feel had Pete Doherty slept in your mouth. You'd rather Victoria Pendleton, Louis Smith and those who will follow did not cheapen the Olympic spirit and their own personal 'brand' by appearing on such shows.
Such ventures into the world of trash TV come with consequences and, as such, the likes of Pendleton should (and probably do) have ample warning — you will automatically become a target once you step outside a culture where you are judged solely on ability, on actions, and not the minutae of your private life and wardrobe. If you are only as good as your last performance in sport, then by the same token are you not also only judged by the career choices you make once you retire?
We hail these sportsmen and women for having achieved something — for being heroes we can aspire to be like. If they then tread the same road as the celebrities we contrast them with, a sense of unease about it is inevitable.
To put it simply, we'd rather not see the near inevitable fall from grace associated with an appearance on 'I'm a Celebrity'. But let's hope some champions have done so well that their brands cannot be tarnished.
"It's a solid business decision" - Chris from omg!
This summer London 2012 fever gripped the nation and as a result, Olympic heroes were born. The excitement of the Games captured the public's imagination leaving many wanting to hear and see more from their favourite athletes. Then, just like that, the party was over. But unlike the Games, the public's hunger for an insight into our medal winners remained.
Like it or not, these Olympians are now a part of the public consciousness and as a result people want to see more, learn more and get to know more about them, it's human nature.
You can't be an Olympian forever: unlike most career choices, it has an early expiry date. So it's perfectly reasonable for people such as Victoria Pendleton to have a plan B. If people were happy to see Jessica Ennis appear on every other television advert during the run up to the games then surely there is no difference in Louis Smith and Victoria Pendleton taking part in 'Strictly Come Dancing'.
They are simply making their money where they can and there is no shame in this. If anything, it's a solid business decision.
No one said that learning to dance was an easy thing to do either. It takes time, dedication and energy. Aside from the prize of a glitter ball trophy instead of a gold medal, the basic premise of learning dance routines for the show isn't that far off the foundation of training for the Olympics.
Many believe that the 'Z-list' types who take part in shows such as Strictly are only doing it to ensure an extended five minutes of fame. Well, if this is the case then why not make them work even harder for their oversized pay cheque. The longer these celebrities last on the show, the more exposure they receive.
Olympians are dedicated and competitive in their profession and it is safe to assume that they will bring this nature to the contest. With the Olympians upping their game, so will others who are desperate to stay in the limelight. Surely that will only make for better television in the long run?
Furthermore, we now live in a world where reality stars such as the cast of TOWIE are championed for having no skills whatsoever. Giving their spot to an Olympian who possesses genuine talent can only be a good thing.
Yes, Ashley McKenzie's stint in the Big Brother house was not the best way to exemplify the skills and dedication of an Olympian. However, he did show the human behind the athlete, satisfying the public's need to get to know what our athletes are like outside of the stadium.
Where the line should be drawn, however, is at shows that are simply using our Olympians to boost ratings. Enter 'The X Factor'. Simon Cowell has confirmed that there will be an Olympic themed week where the contestants will be given advice from our athletes before breaking into songs such as 'Gold' and 'Simply the Best'.
As great as it will be for some to see the Olympians on television again, there isn't much merit in giving advice on something they know absolutely nothing about.
Nothing will ever detract from the incredible achievements made by this year's Olympians, not even sequined lycra outfits or sharing a house with Julian Clary. They will always be Olympic heroes so why not in the meantime make a nice amount of money off the back of it. They more than earned it after all.
What do you think? Should our Olympic heroes cash in on their new-found fame by taking to our TV screens? Or should they protect their reputations by shunning reality programmes? Leave your comments below, and let the debate begin...
- Arts & Entertainment
- Strictly Come Dancing
- Victoria Pendleton
- reality TV shows