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Hooray, Olympic Golf Recommended for the 2024 Games

POSTED ON June 23, 2017 @ 10:09 am

By Mathilda Andersson

Perhaps surprising to some, the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board announced late last week that golf’s inclusion in the Olympic Games could be extended to 2024, despite all the controversy surrounding last year’s debut in Rio.

Golf’s much anticipated return last August in Brazil, after the sport’s 112-year hiatus, was marred by no-shows from several of the world’s top players over Zika virus health scares and general unrest in the host country, but maybe more patently over scheduling issues.

However, although the flagship event didn’t start off quite the triumph many had hoped, in a meeting last Friday at IOC headquarters in Switzerland, the Executive Board recommended to contain all 28 sports that were held at the Summer Olympics last year, golf included.

A statement from the International Golf Federation (IGF) released last Saturday read: “The IGF is gratified to learn of the IOC Executive Board’s decision to include golf in its recommendation for the Olympic Games Programme in 2024. We look forward to learning the outcome of the final vote at the IOC Session in September,”

“We were always confident that golf would deliver exciting men’s and women’s competitions in Rio de Janeiro and even at that, it exceeded our expectations. Now, we are excited to build upon the success from last year as we prepare for the 2020 Games in Tokyo and, hopefully, beyond.”

In the aftermath of last year’s event the reports of golf’s success in the games has been rather ambiguous, but numbers are indicating that events like the Olympic Games, with wide-ranging media coverage, might have a positive effect on the younger generation.

Confidently, the accomplishments of former world number one female golfer Lydia Ko have impacted the younger generation of golfers and have helped grow the game according to New Zealand Golf Inc Chief Executive Dean Murphy.

“The inclusion of golf in the Olympic programme has certainly helped raise the profile of the sport in New Zealand,” Chief Executive Murphy said.

“Lydia Ko’s fantastic silver medal was an achievement all New Zealanders can be proud of and provides us with yet another example of what a global superstar she is. We are very much looking to seeing the growing impact of golf at the Olympics through the Tokyo games.”

On the men’s side, last year’s Olympic golf was boosted by a thrilling gold-medal tussle between Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, which has been understood to have spawned elevated Television audiences in comparison with other sports.

Steve Mona, Chief Executive of the World Golf Foundation (WGF), reinforced the view that golf’s presence in the Olympic Games has positively affected participation numbers around the globe.

“What we’ve observed by watching how other sports really have taken a nice bounce…off of their Olympic exposure, is if young people can watch these great athletes from their country do well in the Olympics on television, then they’ll be more likely to wanting to emulate them,” Mona said ahead of the event last year.

“We believe the Olympics is going to inspire young people who are already playing the game to replicate what they see these athletes do on TV and compete at a higher level. One day, they may also be standing on an Olympic podium.”

Before IOC’s latest announcement, golf was only previously approved for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, with the men and women’s competition to be held at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

With Paris being bookkeepers’ choice for the 2024 host city, Le Golf National ­– the site of next year’s Ryder Cup, would be the course where the men’s and women’s tournaments would be contested.

If Los Angeles would win the bid, the host venue is expected to be Riviera Country Club, the annual site of the PGA TOUR’s Genesis Open.

The news of utilising an already existing golf course is welcomed, as the Rio course has been a white elephant.

Only three months after the Games ended, the $19 million facility created by star US designer Gil Hanse, is looking neglected and eerily empty without a pro-shop or a golf pro.

With too few locals playing and no apparent plan in place for attracting international players, funding has become an imminent problem for the course.

Neil Cleverly, the Briton who built the course and now manages the upkeep, says the company he works for, Progolf, has not been paid for two months. “What happens when we run out of gas or diesel? We’ve been close,” Cleverly said.

“None of us know if there’ll be a job for us in December.”

The Olympic site, run by the Brazilian Golf Confederation, is open to the public with green fees as high as $74-$82 per person for residents and $192 for international visitors.

Read more articles in GIC Winter e-mag here

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