In general, I think it's good when challenging activities pass from a priesthood to the masses. As more people run marathons, fly airplanes or devote themselves to some other difficult pursuit, they overcome self-doubt, acquire new awareness and gain increased appreciation of those who truly excel. Tiger Woods may be an impressive athlete to anyone, but it's the serious golfers who really know just how great he is.
Some things get lost in translation, too. Today, joggers celebrate times that wouldn't have been officially recorded when I was racing in the late 70s and early 80s. Tour groups inundate once-remote towns, destroying what made them worth seeking out. And climbers troop to the top of collectible mountains, swathed and coddled, compared to the adventurers who first conquered them.
It's not any easier to run marathons and climb killer mountains, but it is easier to reach the finish without having acquired the culture. The recent death on Mt. Everest of climber David Sharp provides a sad example of what happens when sport becomes about the obsessive goal instead of the loving daily pursuit.