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New sports, same concerns for Olympic family

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Gordon Farquhar | 15:20 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

The Olympic rings may be symbols of peace and harmony, but underneath them in Copenhagen over the last few days, there's been a hoopla of discord.

Some members are still clearly very unhappy at the way the inclusion of the two new sports for 2016 has been handled. In the end, rugby romped home with 81 votes for, 8 against, and golf avoided the bunkers and the long rough that some had foreseen, with 63-27 in favour.

The numbers don't tell the whole story, however. Before the voting, highly critical interventions from senior International Olympic Committee figures showed president Jacques Rogge will have plenty to do during his new four-year term of office.

Richard Pound, a former vice-president, bemoaned the process for selecting the sports, claiming the executive board had misunderstood the mandate from the membership, in presenting them with a done deal, not a real choice.Rugby's bid team celebrate their success
New Zealand rugby player Jonah Lomu (left) helped front up rugby's bid team

I sense there will be strong resistance to any future attempt to make congress nothing more than a rubber-stamping body for the games programme. Members want their say and their votes to count, just as they do for the host cities. They could have delivered the ultimate bloody nose and rejected one or other of golf and sevens but chose not to.

After all, there's no argument as to their commercial value to the IOC, ahead of say squash or karate, two sports disappointed to miss out, but not put to a full vote. The arguments will rage about golf's suitability in particular.

It's already being compared to Olympic tennis where the top names, with a few notable exceptions, don't make competing a priority, and where the value of Olympic gold ranks below a major title.

Tiger Woods sent a video from the Presidents Cup, asserting his belief that he, "couldn't think of a better sport to be part of the Olympic games." It might have been more convincing had he sent himself. Padraig Harrington, booted, suited, and a little nervous, did come over well in arguing it would mean a lot for an Irishman to be on the podium, and Michelle Wie presented the fresh, ethnically diverse face of the game.

The more I saw of the rugby sevens presentation, the more I felt they'd be pushing against an open door. The sport has everything going for it, not least the ease with which it naturally fits into the often under-used main stadium during the first week of Olympic competition, before track and field begins.

It will be a big crowd puller, and offers the genuine prospect of medals for the Pacific island nations. It would have gone down a storm in London, but the IOC's tortuous process for adding and removing sports prevented that. The organisation might have a swanky new website, but it's still not as light on its feet as it should be.

As Rogge contemplates another four years, I wonder if he's had a chance to put a call in to the White House yet, or NBC television, GE, CocaCola, McDonalds and Visa? Chicago's bid being shown the door at the first opportunity last week is sure to have put further strain on relations between the IOC and its US partners, who frankly, are the organisation's economic powerhouse.

Was that a slight gulp I detected before the president read the results of the first round of voting? I think so. An honourable defeat for Chicago against Rio in the final round would have been a much easier sell. Dumping out the home town of the US president, and now Nobel prize winner not long after Air Force One had left Danish airspace? Ouch! Of course, it was entirely the member's prerogative to do so...but they're not the ones who have to pick up the phone...


  • Comment number 1.

    GOLF.....Oh ffs...why the hell has the ponciest, most elitist game (not sport) on the planet made it into the Olympics...Rugby 7's I can agree with...but Golf...what a waste of some Olympic time that could have gone to a real sport with real athletes, not fat, old, bald blokes whacking a little ball about.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why sports where the medal ranks below winning one of the sports own tournaments ?. What was th fun of the last games ? Hoping Andy Murray would win a gold, I dont think so, it was seeing competitors in sports where all their effort went into achieving the goal in their sport. Football too should have no place but heyho its the worlds of money.

  • Comment number 3.

    I am delighted that Rugby Sevens has become an olympic event and hope that this will in turn expand the sport and it's fifteen a side version on a global scale. It is just disappointing that the decision was too late for the London Olympics.

    That said, golf, a sport which already has an international presence and has a number of large tournaments within it's calendar would seem, like tennis, to be an unnecessary addition to the Olympic program. Unless, as with football there is some restriction placed on competitors.

    As regards squash and karate, apparently I was under the mistaken opinion that they were already olympic events.

  • Comment number 4.

    Rugby 7s yes great choice golf no. I mean is that not something to do on rest days.
    I cannot see massive support for golf at thr olympics sorry waste of money and time. Its like snooker good to play but a complete bore to watch.

  • Comment number 5.

    Golf is an environmental disaster. Huge areas of land and precious water are used up on a 'sport' accessible to 1% of the worlds' people. The IOC sent a message that just as well have come from former president GW Bush.
    Five rings? 1 underhanded, elitist, anti-green Ivory tower. So, good luck London, in wiping off this legacy.

  • Comment number 6.

    Everyone should agree that rugby sevens is a perfect fit for the olympics but golf is so boring and lacking the olympic morals its staggering how much money talks these days. I doubt many people will be tuning in to the golf at the olympics.

    I'd be annoyed if i was squash. Banging on the door for years

  • Comment number 7.

    Sometimes I just don't understand how people come to these decisions? Why on earth Golf? Why not a new sport, one that doesn't already have billions of pounds within it. Why spend money on them to go along to an event that doesn't really mean that much to them as the majors etc. Terrible decision.

  • Comment number 8.

    And good point too - why on earth not Squash. Squash is seen as a minority sport these days and there's less and less places available to play. I personally love it and it should definitely be an Olympic sport. The competitors would certainly see it as the pinnacle of their career!

  • Comment number 9.

    MegaSpur, could not agree more. It is not a sport, its a skill, much like playing bridge or snooker. Absolutely no athletic ability is required, as evidenced by the number who smoke during a round.
    Squash would have been a far better choice that allowed for far more nations to take part with a decent chance of winning.
    7's rugby on the other hand should have been in the schedule long before now.

  • Comment number 10.

    Perhaps in Britain the number of private golf clubs gives the impression of elitism, but having taken up the sport in Australia and continuing now in Canada where public golf courses are seemingly more abundant the elitist comments seem unmerited.

    Would also have to agree with Post 4, more fun to play than to watch.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think multi-millionaire professionals shouldn't participate in any event but as it's driven by money and sponsors the original olympic spirit and days of the amateur are long gone.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fully agree with with most of the comments on here. Rugby 7's no. The rugby 7's can be played at football stadia or the main Olympic stadia without additional cost to the Olympic organisers, whilst golf...well they'll need a course, which will cost several million pounds, and you can be sure that they'll be a player or ex-player picking up a few quid designing it.

    I would try and get special dispensation for the rugby 7's to appear in 2012, where I think there would big crowds watching it in London.

  • Comment number 13.

    I have long been anto Olympic Games. To me they had completely lost their reason for being and this further firms up my opinion. It has become far to big and expensive to stage.

    Most sports have their World and regional championships. This a far better idea being cheaper to stage and giving smaller countries a chance to hold an important event.

    The Olympic movement is no more than a gravy train for delegates.

  • Comment number 14.

    Nobody has noticed yet, have they?

    This means a British Olympic rugby team. Cue much whinging from certain tartan army types. As for me, I am Scottish, a rugby man and delighted.

    Side effect is an Irish side that does not include Ulstermen.

    And a possible double Fijian celebration as their 7 and Vijay Singh grab both new golds.

  • Comment number 15.

    As with most comments abpve Rugby Sevens seems like a pretty good pick. The only way I can possibly see Golf working is if they limit it to Amateur entries. It would then fit into the mindset of an up and coming golfer much like I imagine it does for a boxer. It becomes the thing to win, and announce themselves to an international audience before turning pro.

    Not sure that exactly fits the Omlympic ideals, but it seems better than the current idea.

  • Comment number 16.

    I hope I am right in saying that were Ireland to enter the Rugby 7's at the Olympics, the team would be composed of players from all 4 provinces. I dont think the IRFU would be too keen about having their Ulster players being involved in a GB team under any circumstances. I believe this issue was dealt with when the announcement was initially made about the make-up of the British team - just England, Scotland, Wales.

  • Comment number 17.

    Reply to Post 14, I had noticed, I believe they are called the British Lions. As regards the Irish, I was told by some Irish friends, admittedly Northern Irish, that the Ronan O'Gara vs David Humphreys debacle had already determined that one, Humphreys was clearly the better player.

  • Comment number 18.

    As an Englishman I hope we are called the British and Irish Lions and do hope we do not have any of the daft comments trying to split us up. This is rugby not football.

  • Comment number 19.

    Great Britain and Northern Ireland - not quite the same thing but close enough. And I certainly agree with the football sentiments.

  • Comment number 20.

    'As an Englishman I hope we are called the British and Irish Lions and do hope we do not have any of the daft comments trying to split us up. This is rugby not football.'

    Er no... at the Olympics the side will be known as Great Britain, just as every other side representing the union is known as. We won't get special dispensation to be called the lions!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Golf? Lord help us.

    Darts next then....

  • Comment number 22.

    Whilst I agree that the inclusion of Golf is farcial, let's not forget that the same Olympic's committee have previously included 'Trampoline' and 'Rythmic Gynamastics', as well as 'Snychronised Swimming', etc.

    Likely next in store will be 'Ballroom Dancing, Fox Hunting and Polo'

    We clearly seem to have lost track of what the fundamentals of the Olympic Games was about.

  • Comment number 23.

    Oh look, a very very belated article from the BBC (!) trying to terrorise the IOC about American support, combined with cut and paste rubbish about golf and rugby sevens. risible.

  • Comment number 24.

    If golf can get in, then snooker, darts and cricket should also be included. I don't like baseball much (at all), but they kicked that out when it's a lot more suited to the Olympics than golf ever will be.

  • Comment number 25.

    Further to comment 12 above, I agree with you on Rugby 7's being allowed in London, all the IOC have to do along with the London Team is agree that they can add and host a 7's tournament and that the IRB are also happy to go along with this

  • Comment number 26.

    Regarding the Rugby team, isn't it impressive that the four home unions have sat down and agreed that once every four years, they'll come together for the Olympics to have a GB&NI team and an Irish team. And that they'e agreed that players from NI will be in the GB&NI team and those from Eire will be in the Irish team.

    This gentlemanly agreement really sets rugby apart from football and is a lesson that those sports administrators (am looking squarely at the SFA, WFA & IFA) could learn from.

  • Comment number 27.

    I find myself echoing boblink (#13),

    When will the Olympics be declared a 'commercial operation' ?

  • Comment number 28.

    Sorry GeoWolf, it is an elitist many underprivileged kids can afford a set of Titanium golf clubs...or even afford the £12-£15 to play on a public course (3-4 rounds a week)...add to that the cost of lessons from a pro golfer (absolute necessity to be any good), spikes, golf balls, stupid grandad that to athletics, you can pick up a set of running shoes for £30, shorts and a singlet for about a tenner and most athletic clubs run junior sections for a couple of quid a week subs

    Also, what if the host city has no championship quality courses to play on? A good golf course costs millions to build and years to mature,we have courses near my house that are only just getting really good to play on after 15yrs!!

    The Tiger Woods of this world do not need gold medals, this is just a farce bought upon us by a load of golf playing IOC bureaucrats.

  • Comment number 29.

    How are these decisions made? Hardly anyone i know thinks that golf should be in the Olympics. I couldn't agree more with the people that say a sport should only be in the Olympics if Olymnpic Gold is the pinnacle of the sport - it won't be in Golf.

    Having said that, there's a lot of negative comments about golf being elitist and only available to a small % of the population. That may have been the case 10-15 years ago but golf clubs are changing - they are far easier to get into, cheaper and more welcoming than they once were. Unfortunately, people's perceptions aren't changing with them.

    I joined one of the realtively newer golf club 2 years ago and it costs me barely more than the Premiership season ticket i gave up. It's a really fun, friendly and relaxed way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

    Whatsmore, junior memberships at our club cost just £75. If a junior plays 3 times a week, that works out at around 50p a round. With regards equipment, a decent set of second hand clubs can be picked up for much less than it costs to buy a PS3.

  • Comment number 30.

    Oh Lord, here come the digs at football again and why everyone can't the celts play nice & do exactly what the FA want. The comparison with rugby is ridiculous. THe IRB is desperately trying to increase the number of active nation members, they are about as likely to try & force an amalgamation of the Home Nations as Scotland is to win the next World Cup. FIFA on the other hand have made it explicitly clear that they think that the number if nation members is getting unmanageable & several delegates have expressed a wish to force the Home Nations to field a Team GB (which would also dilute British & European power within FIFA, another thing the other federations are very keen on). Ignoring the fact that I don't think there should be football at the Olympics in the first place, if we have to have it, having a Team GB compete significantly increases the chances of the annihilation of 125 years of international footballing independence for the home nations & for what? So David Cameron can look smug at a couple of group stage games during a tournament we have never previously cared about & will remain indifferent towards when we aren't hosting the damn thing.
    By the way delighted, Rugby 7's made it, cracking sport and the Olympics will be the 'be all & end all' of a 7's career, just as it should be. Disagree with golf's addition, but it will be undeniably popular if they get the format right; remember that the Ryder Cup is the third most watched sporting event in the world behind the Olympics & World Cup. Comments about squash (would have been my choice along with 7's) or karate being more 'inclusive' are nonsense. The Top 100 in golf in a proper UN of nations & you would have the likes of Fiji, Argentina, Columbia, Japan, India & Korea (all have Top 50 players) competing against Team GB, the US, Spain, South Africa & Australia. It might not be to everyone's taste, but it is a truly world game.

  • Comment number 31.

    Completely disagree with most on here. Sevens is a disgrace. A bastardised version of a great sport, with all the tactics and most of the skill removed. There's already a test of naked speed (which is all sevens is) in the Olympics: it's called the 100 metres. We don't need another one. I'm a huge rugby fan, but sevens is the most boring sport imaginable. Oh, you're faster than him, well done, have a banana. Disgraceful decision. Golf is a hugely deserving case in comparison.

  • Comment number 32.

    Rugby 7's and golf are sports which require a high degree of fitness and physical effort, together with talent, if success is to be obtained. Contrast this with the 'sport' which the Olympics most innapropriately includes, i.e. shooting. Why the skill of using a gun - probably man's vilest invention - should be an Olympic sport is beyond my comprehension. Such a sedentary activity has no place amongst the games for which athletes have trained to their physical limits, for many years, in order to compete at the Games.

  • Comment number 33.

    Cartmaneazye you really are an ignorant fool. Clearly you have never played 7's rugby - too much of a slouch? There are basic skills like catching and passing that are actually of a far higher standard than those exhibited in many a 15 a side game - dropping the ball and making rubbish passes are erros that are punished far more decisively in 7's.
    Further, the fact is many great 15's players have come from 7's because it demands that you create and utilise space. When returned to play with a group of unimaginative bish bash 15's players, these guys stand out a mile. In fact, backs in particular that have played for Southern Hemispehere teams have usually cut their teeth in 7's. Jonah Lomu, Frank Bunce, Christian Cullen all jump to mind when I think of some of the all time greats from NZ alone that started out as great 7's players. You can add to that forwards - Lawrence Dallagio, James Haskell, Jordan Crane, Tom Croft, Luke Narraway, Tom Palmer and a bucket of others that are currently playing and are capped England 15's internationals (with the exception of Dayglo who has retired).
    7's does require speed, but it also demands hard work, tremendous fitness and stamina and a good deal of skill. 15 a side rugby has an enormous amount to learn from 7's if the poor standards all too often exhibited are to improve - why else are fans booing their own teams as they engage in yet more kicking ping pong?

  • Comment number 34.

    I've got a feeling Olympic competitors from NI are free choose to represent either Eire or GB. I'm sure there was a boxer from Belfast competing for Eire in the last Olympics.

    I'm not a big rugby fan, but I do find sevens far more watchable than the full game. Another advantage is that the games are quicker, so more teams can compete in the tournament. The rugby World Cup only really has 6 or so teams which are competitive, so this is too narrow for the Olympics. I think sevens would be a much more level playing field over many more nations, making it a far more competitive event.

    As for golf, I enjoying playing rather than watching, and it certainly requires a lot of skill but not much fitness (by athletic standards). It is still a little too elitist (I only pay on cheap public courses which we need more of rather than expensive private clubs), but less so than the equestrian and sailing events which are well established in the Olympics. In fact, GB do rather well as the elitist sports, so we shouldn't complain too much. Golf's main achilles heel is that a gold medal would still rank below the 4 majors and the Ryder cup, much like tennis. That's not to say those competing wouldn't try their best to win it.

  • Comment number 35.

    Nobody has noticed yet, have they?
    This means a British Olympic rugby team. Cue much whinging from certain tartan army types. As for me, I am Scottish, a rugby man and delighted.

    Dont think this will be a problem for Rugby7s (see British and Irish Lions), and the home nations wont be paranoid about losing their status as a stand alone nation (as per the SFA). Great news, looking forward to Rio already!!

  • Comment number 36.

    How can you say golf isn't a sport when pistol shooting is? People competing in jeans and tracksuits does not seem right and yet it is still included in the Olympics.
    Some of you people need to stop being so hypocritical and just enjoy the Olympics for what it is, the largest gathering of elite sports people in the world competing all competing to be on the podium at the end of their event.

  • Comment number 37.

    Rugby Sevens and Golf are positive additions to the Oly Games Movement. One feels the day is not far off when Asian sport Kabbadi will be a medal event in the Oly Games. It's a sport that has a huge following among the masses in Asia and in the Asian Diaspora world wide.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho


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