Saturday, October 10, 2009

Where green is worth more than gold

On Friday night an international body made a spectacularly dumb decision. No I’m not talking about the Nobel Committee awarding Obama the Peace Prize (though that was pretty odd). I’m talking about the IOC deciding to make golf an Olympic sport for 2016. There is absolutely no reason to put golf in the Olympics except monetary ones. Golf gets pretty good TV ratings in the US (when Tiger is playing, and he is also in the lead). Golf is also a billion dollar industry, so of course it had the necessary weight behind it to get the IOC to select it.

But here’s what Geoff Ogilvy said about golf being in the games:
"You could disregard the golf tournament as far as I'm concerned. I just want to be at the Olympics. Two weeks with the camaraderie and mayhem in the village, that would be the best part of it."

Says it all – the best part of getting to go to the Olympics would be to have fun at the Olympic village (and to be honest, were you a young single sportsperson, wouldn’t you want to be in the Olympic village as well?). But winning? Pfft. Like Ogilvy (or any of the top pro players) could give a damn).

No golfer would swap an Olympic Gold for a Green Jacket from the US Masters, or the Claret Jug for the British Open, or the US Open or US PGA trophies. OK, maybe Tiger would swap one of them, because let’s face it, he’s got a few of each already, and you figure he wouldn’t mind being the first to win the Golf Olympic Gold. But everyone else?  The majors are all that matter, and thus it will be forever.

Fact it the Olympics are a bloated leviathan now. Too many sports that don’t really want to be there, but are there because of the money involved. The one and only criteria for being at the Olympics, is that the pinnacle of the sport must be winning an Olympic Gold. Anything else, and see ya later. The only possible reason for putting golf in the Olympics is if it were a teams event  - say four players from each country playing a mixture of foursomes, singles and fourball matches. Even then it’s a pretty ropey event, but at least it would be different from the “Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Master Card” or any of the other tournaments on the PGA or European Tours.

So let’s have look at all the other sports in the Olympics, and do a cull:

  • Aquatics (46)
    • Diving
    • Swimming
    • Synchronized swimming
    • Water polo
Yep they stay – obviously they do. You don’t swim up and down a pool staring at a black line for 3 hours every day for any other reason than to win the Olympics. I would get rid of Synch Swimming, on the basis that it is the dumbest sport in the Games, but at least those who compete in the sport all are aiming to win the gold.


Of course (it’s really the only sport that counts)

I’m going with yes. I know they have the “Thomas Cup”, but let’s be honest, badminton players don’t get a hell of a lot of publicity, so winning the Olympics would be their best chance to get some adulation.

A very tricky one. The temptation is to say no, as obviously the NBA is the pinnacle. But in terms of international competition, the Olympics is the be all and end all. It has a strong Olympics history, and especially in the Women’s side of the game is the pinnacle. So let it stay.

A big yes – Amateur boxing is the one sport where the term really denotes something different to professional. And for this version of the sport, there is only one Everest – the gold medal. Ali, Joe Frasier, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard among many other world champions first won an Olympic Gold.  

Yep keep them both

  • Cycling
    • BMX (2)
    • Road (4)
    • Track (10)
    • Mountain Bike (2)

BMX… hmmm methinks some of those involved would prefer to win an X-Games title so I am inclined to ditch it… but I do recall hearing one of those competing in the event before the Beijing Games last year, and he seemed to be pretty “stoked” about the whole thing, so let it stay (though it’s on probation).

Road racing gets ditched. The Tour de France is all that matters. The only event on the road I would keep is the time trial. But the road race? Hmmm I have real doubts. The track obviously stays, and so do the mountain bikes.

  • Equestrian
    • Dressage (2)
    • Eventing (2)
    • Jumping (2)

Yeah they have an international circuit etc. But the Olympics is the big one for them; an easy decision.

Yep. The Olympics is the pinnacle – and also keeping it gives Channel 7 an opportunity to show some Italian winning gold in slow motion while backed to Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma about 30 times during the Games fortnight.

Yep. You think any of the Hockeyroos or Kookaburras would trade an Olympic Gold for any other tournament?

Bye, bye. Yes it has history, but it also has the World Cup. And the European Cup, or the Asian Cup, or the Copa America. Ditch it.

  • Gymnastics
    • Artistic (14)
    • Rhythmic (2)
    • Trampoline (2)

Unfortunately it stays – though the “women’s” competition needs some serious changes, as I suggested last year.

Well it’s a dumb sport, but they all want to win the gold, so let them stay (but really it should be culled)


It was created for the Olympics by the guy who created the Olympics, so yes it stays (but again, another that should be ditched because it is dumb)


Again yes. Sure there are other bigger events, but for non-ocean racing events, the Olympics is the mountain all sailors want to climb.


It has been dropped, but should have stayed, because the Olympics was far and away the only thing that mattered in the sport.

Have to say it probably should be dropped – there have been world championships since 1926.

Yeah keep it (another dumb sport)

Gone! And gone quickly! As bad as golf. Especially so because there is already an international competition that means more – the Davis Cup. If it stays, it should stay as a team comp – 2 singles and 1 doubles match – a sort of mini-Davis Cup. But then again, the Olympics should not be a “mini” anything. So it’s gone.

Yep it stays.

Yep – for both events the Olympics is the big thing


Yep – if only for allowing Roy and HG to commentate.

So it turns out it is rather hard to cull sports – most do want to be there because it is the pinnacle of the sport (it’s much easier to cull those sports that are dumb!). The IOC also voted to bring in Rugby Sevens, and I would wager that the Olympics will become the high point of that sport – and will in all likelihood fuel a boom in the sport, that may in time have the 15-a-side version looking over its shoulder. 

But golf? Will putting it in the Olympics make anyone take up the sport? Will it cause any young player to stand over a put and say to him or herself “this is to win the Olympic Gold Medal”? Will any player be willing to trade every other victory in his career for the Gold?

No, no and no. And in my book that means the IOC should also have said no.

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