GOLF GUNNING FOR OLYMPIC RECOGNITION

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Ernie Els has added his voice to the growing band of players supporting golf’s bid to become part of the Olympics.

Ernie Els has added his voice to the growing band of players supporting golf’s bid to become part of the Olympics.
“Watching some of the opening ceremony it got me thinking how amazing it would be to represent your country at the Olympic Games,” says the South African on his website.
“How good must that feel? I mean, seeing the looks on the faces of guys like (tennis stars Rafael) Nadal and (Roger) Federer, you could see what it meant to them.
“I really hope I’m still around if and when golf is introduced.
“I know some critics say that the Olympic Games are for amateurs and that golf shouldn’t be included, but that’s a pretty thin argument.
“(American basketball star) Kobe Bryant is there and what does he earn … maybe 40million a year? Last time I checked, Nadal and Federer weren’t exactly playing for peanuts either!
“And besides, all the top runners earn big money now. So if money and amateur status are the only arguments against getting golf in the Olympics … well, like I say, there is no argument.
“They could have a men’s and women’s golf event and maybe take the two top players off the world rankings.
“Personally, I’d jump at the chance.”
Els would be 46 if, as the sport hopes, it becomes an Olympic discipline again in 2016, so he has given himself very much a long-term target.
World number two Phil Mickelson, also 38, said recently that “having golf as an Olympic sport is exponentially more important to the game of golf than the majors”.
For the American the increased worldwide audience and the revenues that would come into the sport is a powerful argument for campaigning for its inclusion.
Not everybody agrees. Masters champion Trevor Immelman, Els’ fellow countryman, is of the view that big money sports such as tennis, golf and basketball should not be part of the Games and there are those who believe that when the Olympics are not the pinnacle of a sport then that sport should not be there.
Tiger Woods, content to focus on a place in history through the majors, has not given the Olympic bid his wholehearted support yet either.
An attempt was made to get golf on the programme for London 2012, but that failed.
Now it is in competition with baseball, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens, softball and squash for two spots in the 2016 Games.
It was last included as a medal sport in 1904, when 74 Americans and three Canadians did battle in St Louis.
The vote of the International Olympic Committee comes in Denmark in October next year.
Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Club and part of the bid team put together by the International Golf Federation, said at last month’s Open: “I have no doubt that Olympic golf is comfortably the biggest grow-the-game opportunity that exists to help us bring golf to so many countries where it’s just starting up.
“It’s been made very clear to us on several occasions by the IOC that if golf is to be in the Olympics then it has to be for the top players in the world.
“Golf will not get into the Olympics if it’s to be for amateurs.
“This will not be plain sailing – we have much work ahead of us. There is stiff competition.”
Dawson and Ty Votaw, the US Tour official who is in charge of the bid, travelled to Beijing to meet with IOC members and seek their advice as to the best way to procede with the bid.
Tim Finchem, the US Tour commissioner, has admitted there are issues concerning the timing of the Olympics and how that fits in with major championships, but he thinks that can be handled.
“Where the game is 10, 15, 20, 25 years from now could be fundamentally different because of the step we’re taking and the short-term issues will pale in comparison,” he commented.
“All of us are in the business of televised golf, so the Olympic schedule affects us already. We played, for example, the Presidents Cup in late October a few years ago when the Games were in Sydney because (American network) NBC was in Sydney.”
Olympic golf would be for men and women and Dawson added: “We have to come up with a formula which attracts the leading players of the world, also allows players from a wide variety of countries to compete and also recognises the IOC’s policy on a limitation on athlete numbers.
“We did go to visit the IOC in Lausanne recently and I think it was made pretty clear to us at that meeting that a bid from golf would be warmly welcomed by the IOC.”
The other sports are presumably being told the same thing, though, and welcoming a bid is very different to winning the vote.

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