While most Americas favor federal financing for Olympic training, the U.S. Olympic Committee is right when it says that the current system is best for both athletes and spectators.

A recent poll of 1,223 adults by a Virginia-based communications company and the Associated Press found that 67 percent favored spending government money to train U.S. athletes as is done by the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies.The majority of those polled said they viewed the Summer and Winter Games as contests between nations, as well as between individual athletes. They said that it was important for the United States to make a good showing.

That seems to stray from the original purpose of the Olympics, which began in Greece 776 B.C. and were revived in 1896. Those ancient games honored individual competitors rather than nations.

Certainly, national pride is a welcome by-product of modern Olympic competition. But the public should not forget that the Games are first and foremost a contest to name the best athletes, not the country best at producing them.

The best way for amateur athletes to fund their training is through public support, not government subsidies. Athletes deserve the opportunity to compete without interference from the government or pressure from corporate sponsors.

That's best for the spectators, too. They should be able to watch an athletic competition in the true spirit of the original intent of the Olympics. But they also need to be willing to support such a competition.

Athletes like Utah's own Denise Parker, a member of the U.S. Olympic archery team, need help to pay training expenses. Her coach is in Arkansas and she must travel there for coaching sessions.

The Deseret News has set up a fund to help pay Parker's expenses. Contributions should be sent to the Denise Parker Olympic Fund, c/o Key Bank of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84189-0021 or deposited at any Key Bank in Utah.