The Olympic Committee is meeting this week in Mexico City to confront several nagging issues, not least of which is the behind schedule preparations in Athens for the big event in 2004. But also on the agenda is the recurring question about the inclusion of golf.
The inclusion of golf in the Olympic Games is not new and it was at one time, briefly, a recognised event on the medals list. It was dropped, however, for both logistical and organisational reasons. But with the inclusion of tennis at Sydney in 2000 the mutterings about golf were again revived, despite the fact that they were knocked down before the previous games in Los Angeles. Tennis having made it to the podium, golf, it has been said, is not likely to be far behind. But is there a place for golf in the modern Olympic movement, and if there is, is it altogether wise?
Ballesteros kicked up a fuss about the inclusion of golf at the Barcelona Olympics until the logistics and the USPGA were spelled out to him. It was all really very simple, and had Seve played in any major amateur championship event he would have appreciated the problem before he even had the idea.
Even with only 128 contestants, seven rounds of golf have to be played before you arrive at a grand final in matchplay golf - surely the only form of the game that could be truly considered Olympian. There would be entrants from that number of countries alone. Then there would be the question of selection; for there would certainly be more than one player deserving a place from the larger golfing nations. It is not hard to see that the number of rounds of matchplay golf would become stupendous and deterring to any entrant.
It could, of course, become a team event like the World Cup or the Eisenhower Trophy. It would, nevertheless with over a hundred countries involved, remain a massive undertaking even as a simple 72-hole strokeplay event. like any other. And it being 'like any other' is really the problem about involving golf as an Olympic event.
Like tennis, golf has its long established major events that could never be supplanted in levels of importance by an Olympic Gold Medal. There might have been a slim chance when the Olympic games were truly amateur. Today there is no chance whatsoever.
For the track and field athletes of this world, perhaps for the shooters, fencers, swimmers and equestrians, Olympic Gold is the ideal. For golfers, the Claret Jug of the Open Championship or the Green Jacket of the Masters represents the zenith and that is not likely to change.
It would not be hard to find sponsors for golf in the Olympics but whether pro golfers would be prepared to give of their time to represent their country is another matter. Athens 2004 is certainly out of the question. For those who have taken their clubs to Greece, Corfu may linger in the memory but it is no Pine Valley. China 2008 is the likely target for courses are already replacing paddy fields all over the country and Beijing is under heavy planned attack on architects drawing boards all over the world.
In his opening press interview in Mexico City the President of the Olympic Committee said that 'commercial considerations' had again raised the issue of golf as an Olympic event. It is noteworthy that he also discussed the likelihood of a reduction in equestrian events and an abolition of the modern pentathlon.
No one should be surprised by this announcement for there is little TV coverage of the pentathlon despite the fact that it must be the event that best tests the all-round sportsman. As for horses and the three-day event, it would be hard to imagine a show jumper appearing in the ring with 'Nike' plastered across the buttocks or 'Adidas' wrapped around a polished top hat.
The simple truth of the matter is that pro-golfers are the tarts of the sporting world and will advertise anything, anytime, anywhere. Ask Adidas for Nike certainly knows it.
|| 27 - NOVEMBER 2002