Does golf really deserve a place in the Olympics?
Pierre de Coubertin must be turning in his grave at the news that golf, surely the globe’s ultimate consumerist, exclusive sport, is set to be played at the 2016 Olympics.
The Frenchman revived the ancient Olympic Games at the end of the 19th century to embrace the spirit of sportsmanship and amateur ideals of a bygone era.
In the opening 80 years of the 20th century, the Games developed into a quadrennial spectacle where the world’s finest athletes — who devoted hours and hours of unpaid sweat and devotion to their cause — pitted their wits against international rivals in a manner typified by the phrase ‘It’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part.’
Yet could any sport be further from this ideal, more exclusive or more removed from the open-to-all ethos that drove de Coubertin to create the modern Games than golf?
It costs a small fortune to buy a bag of even the humblest modern golf clubs and membership to clubs the world over is prohibitively expensive. Augusta, the home of the Masters, still refuses female members.
The rot set in when tennis was introduced to the Games. It simply has no place there and the demeanour and approach of most players, in Beijing last year particularly, said it all about the regard in which an Olympic medal in the event is held.
Ask a hundred sports enthusiasts who won the last three or four men’s 100metres at the Olympics and you would have many correct answers or at least educated guesses. Men’s Olympic tennis singles champion in 2004 anyone?
The lure of Tiger Woods et al playing at the Games seems to have resulted in the IOC being seduced by the idea of even more stratospheric global viewing figures. The likes of Titleist, Ping and Wilson will surely be clinking their champagne flutes the loudest.
Softball and squash strike me as sports far more befitting of the Olympic ideal – strong amateur roots and both terrific, combative spectator sports – but the IOC know otherwise.
Oh, and it was Chile’s Nicolas Massu by the way.
PHOTO: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge speaks at a news conference after an IOC board meeting in Berlin, August 13, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter