On August the 5th, the latest edition of the world's biggest sporting event will take place- The 2016 Rio Olympic Games. This event has felt like it's been forever in the making but for athletes it's a chance to finally show off their talents and score a spot on the elusive podium.
The 2016 Olympics have not been without controversy though, with the Zika virus playing on the minds of many athletes, volunteers, spectators and organisers. Zika, a mosquito transmitted virus that shows symptoms such as muscle pain and conjunctivitis, has been a prominent issue for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Along with Zika, other issues that the IOC have had to work around include widespread rumours of security issues within Rio, unfinished sporting arenas and also challenges relating to a particular sport and its competitors.
Among the high jumpers, volley ballers, and swimmers, appears a new type of athlete in the schedule. Golf will be a part of the Olympic program for the first time in over a century. From its old, Scottish history, golf has evolved a high class, high stake sport which is as cut-throat as any.
A question that has been raised a lot in recent times is “should golf even be in the Olympics”?
Golf as a sport differs a lot from the majority of others in the games. Here are some key features about the sport to show this:
· Players are ranked in an Official World Golf Ranking point system.
· Golf athletes are individuals; they pick their own schedule depending on their exemptions into tournaments.
· There are several tours around the world. In Australia there is the PGA of Australasia, however, the two most recognised tours are the European Tour and the PGA tour in America.
· Golf has four majors; The US Masters, The US Open, The British Open and The PGA Championship. Top players throughout the world base their playing schedules around these majors.
In many ways golf as a professional sport is comparable to tennis. The top 100 in the world lead very comfortable lives, definitely not short of a dollar.
The reason why golf has been surrounded in controversy in Rio is the fact that a majority of the best players in the world have little interest in playing
Take Adam Scott for example. He withdrew from Olympic team selection citing a “busy playing schedule around the time of the Olympics”. A lot of high-profile characters attacked Scott including Olympian Dawn Fraser. Her attitude around Scott’s decision was that had let his country down.
This opinion may have been valid if Scott’s choice wasn’t echoed by other players such as Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Speith. Day openly voiced the threat of Zika to his family and the want he has for extending his family. McIlroy also made mention of the Zika virus as a contributing factor for him not competing.
Truth is, golf probably should not be in the Olympics and although this result was foreseeable, there are many reasons as to why you will not hear in the media why top touring golfers do not want to go to the Rio games. Here are a few to start:
· Does a Gold Medal really rank highly among top player's desires? Where does this rank with a Green Jacket or a Claret Jug?
· Is there a big enough purse (prize money) to demand these players to travel to Brazil to compete? Remember, members of the PGA Tour and European Tour are regularly playing for $8 million in total purse.
· The golfing schedule is based around the four majors. After majors comes World Golf Championship events that run throughout the year. Also, The Ryder Cup which is a USA vs Europe event is known for its long days and demanding, competitive nature. The Ryder Cup is scheduled to be held 4 weeks after the Olympics.
Personally, I think the first point mentioned above is the most pivotal. Do these players who already play for so much throughout the year, really want to front up for a chance at receiving a medal, a medal that until recent years would never have crossed their minds.
Yes, competitors in traditional Olympic sports have very different views on this matter but after all, they did grow up wanting to snatch a Gold Medal in their event. But honestly golf is different, very different.
For the 2020 games in Tokyo, I feel the IOC has a one key way to change golf’s place in the Olympics. One possible way to increase a National Sporting Organisations (NSO) enthusiasm in the games is to make it for amateurs. Much like boxing where only a nation’s top amateur boxes can fight for gold.
This would enable aspiring, young golfers to strive for something and maybe even re-ignite the flame for their professional years. It also gives NSO’s an opportunity to be more involved in the games. Promotion, control and media access would all be enhanced.
However, for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Australia will have a golf team made up of professionals representing the country. Scott Hend and Marcus Fraser will make up our male team and the promising Su Oh and Minjee Lee will be our female contingent.
Golf’s 2016 induction into the Olympics will have its challenges on course but also off course, but hopefully organisers can learn from this year’s event and improve it for Tokyo 2020.