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Why should golf be in the Olympics, why not?

POSTED ON August 17, 2016 @ 8:47 am

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I’m ever the optimist- trying to always see the best in people and the positives in things that I see occur. In 1998 I became a member of the PGA of America, the largest working sports organization in the world (as well a PGA of Australia Member in 2010), dedicating myself to promoting the game of golf to everyone, everywhere.

When I first heard that golf was accepted into the Olympics after last being played over 100 years ago, I was thinking- GREAT a chance to really spread the word about this great game of ours to a very wide audience.

So why are so many people seemingly “anti” having golf in the Olympics? It’s arguably the world’s largest sporting event, but many people in the industry and consumer alike have a host of arguments on why golf shouldn’t be a part of it.

It’s unfortunate that the first year of Olympic golf has not gone well as 10 of the world’s best male players have opted out already, citing concerns over the Zika virus, general lack of interest and scheduling conflicts.

These decisions have not pleased the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will make a call next year whether to keep golf past the 2020 Olympics. IOC member Barry Maister spoke on New Zealand radio recently and said golf shouldn’t stay in the Games if the top players won’t commit.

“I think it is appalling,” Maister told Newstalk ZB.

“The Olympics is about the best, and they pledged the best. Quite frankly, any sport that cannot deliver its best athletes, in my view, should not be there.”

Maister’s point would be valid if the Olympics weren’t fraught with issues already, from the Zika scare to general unrest in Rio, and most recently, the WADA shutting down the lab in charge of Olympic drug tests.

This seems less like an issue of Olympic golf not being able to attract top golfers — although there are those that don’t want to add it to their hectic late summer schedule — as much as it’s an issue of these Olympics.

McIlroy, the world’s No. 4-ranked golfer, said Wednesday at the French Open that it was a difficult decision to pull his name from Olympic consideration and decide to not represent Ireland in Rio. (McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, but was slated to represent Ireland.)

McIlroy said he already had booked his Olympic accommodations, hired security and a chef, and gotten his shots. “I had two dead shoulders for about four days,” McIlroy said. Last week, though, McIlroy concluded that the threat of contracting the Zika virus in Rio was just too big a risk.

McIlroy says he believes if the Olympics weren’t in Rio this year that more athletes would be participating.

“Unfortunately with where it is this year, people just aren’t comfortable going down there and putting themselves or their family at risk,” McIlroy said. “… It’s an unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in.

I’d say if the Olympic Games were in most other cities or most other countries in the world this year, you wouldn’t find as many people not wanting to go and participate.”

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for the IOC to understand that this could possibly be an issue that they caused, and golf might not have a long run in the Olympics.

It will be a great shame if we lose golf in the Olympics after only two Games.

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Australian golfing legend and junior golf supporter Jack Newton noted that when he was the Australasian PGA Tour Chairman, a vote among the players on whether golf should return to the Olympics went convincingly against it – “as most of the world was saying at the time”.

Jack personally doesn’t believe golf should be in the Olympics. “It’s never going to be a major,” he said. “We’ve already got four majors.”

But not all great players agree. 80-year-old legend Gary Player for instance said he would have loved to take part in the Games.

“For me, oh, I would’ve given anything to play in the Olympics and have a chance to win a gold medal. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world. It would’ve given me a great kick to represent my country.”

Another great, Jack Nicklaus, echoed that sentiment.

“Man, I would’ve run from here to Rio to play in the Olympic Games,” he said. “We never had the opportunity. My gosh, how can you turn it down? I’m not naming any individuals because I don’t know who did — not one name — but I heard some did and I wish they would re-think their position because it is the game of golf at stake here, not somebody else’s personal inconvenience.”

Nicklaus expressed concern that golf’s future in the Olympics would be determined by its appearance this year, and it has the ability to spread the game to new regions of the world and to countries where there still is room for fertile growth.

“We have the opportunity to grow the game in so many parts of the world where the game isn’t played very much — China, India, Russia, Brazil — big populations that will support Olympic Games,” he said.

“Fred Funk, when he made my Presidents Cup team in South Africa, said, ‘I’d row to South Africa to be on the team.’ I think that’s sort of the attitude I’d take. The game of golf is not about individuals, it’s about your country and the growth of golf.”

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Men’s World Number 1 Jason Day released a statement earlier this week, officially announcing his withdrawal from this year’s Olympic due to the health risk associated with the Zika virus.

“It is with deep regret I announce that I will not be competing in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games this coming August in Rio de Janeiro. The reason for my decision is my concerns about the possible transmission of the Zika virus and the potential risks that it may present to my wife’s future pregnancies and to future members of our family.

“While it has always been a major goal to compete in the Olympics on behalf of my country, playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family. I will not place them at risk.

Unlike her male counterpart and some of the world’s top male golfers, women’s No 1 Lydia Ko isn’t too concerned about the Zika virus threat.

Earlier this week the young Kiwi told Bunkered that she is determined to “keep firing on all cylinders for the remainder of the 2016 season”, and that she has her sights set on gold in Rio.

“It’s very unfortunate to hear about the Zika virus,” she said. “But to me, out of the girls that I’ve talked to, on our tour, I think everyone is super excited to go there.”

“The best experts in the world are handling the situation of the Zika and if it was – I feel like if it was definitely too dangerous, they wouldn’t get us going there, but, you know, I think we have to trust the experts that they are handling the situation, and for us to concentrate on the events we have coming up and be excited for the Olympics.

In fact, none of that top female players have pulled out which is very ironic considering they are the ones at an even higher risk potentially.

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Thankfully, golf has been voted back in for the 2016 and 2020 Games, after a 112-year absence. It’s surprising that it has taken this long, but golf may be short-lived if we don’t get the support needed by the industry to keep it in.

The modern Olympic Games is the leading international sporting event, featuring summer and winter sports competitions, in which thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of contests.

With the challenges our golf industry is facing domestically and internationally, worse in some countries than others, why do people not want it to be played?

If it’s giving exposure to golf in any way, shape, or form, it can only be viewed as beneficial to the sport to have it included. Let’s get over the “pedantic” of it all and see it played, and make the most of any opportunity it creates. Who cares (besides the IOC member) if it’s a potentially weaker field than other major events, it will still assist countries in raising awareness for the game and to open it up to a new generation of potential players, regardless of what format may be popular in the future.

Sometimes you just need to do things for a greater good.

I’ve been embedded in the golf industry for 25+ years and the industry has done a lot for me. It gave me a career path, a life purpose, opportunity to meet so many great people and to travel to various places to promote and preach the merits of the game. If it wasn’t for golf, I wouldn’t have come to Australia in the first place and met my wife and have two wonderful kids. If it was a life changer for me, it could also be for others around the world.

The golf industry is my (any many of yours) livelihood. If there are any new opportunities to help promote the game to new countries, to new audiences and to boost local participation, then it can only be a good thing.

I recently watched the movie “Eddie the Eagle” about the British guy Michael “Eddie” Edwards that since childhood aspired to participate in the Olympics- which he eventually did by contesting in the ski jumping category. The world applauded his Olympic spirit and determination to compete- even though he (and everyone else) knew he could never win.

“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. To spread these principles is to build up a strong and more valiant and, above all, more scrupulous and more generous humanity,” said Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee and considered the father of the modern Olympic Games.

Other examples of the Olympic spirit could be witnessed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when Eric the Eel, Equatorial Guinea’s Eric Moussambani, who had gained entry to the Olympics via a wild-card scheme, had to compete alone against the clock in front of 17,000 spectators, in a bid to make the qualifying time of 1min 10sec after his components were disqualified.

Moussambani, who had taught himself to swim in the pool of a hotel in his home town of Malabo, managed to eventually “win” heat one of the 100m freestyle in a time of 1min 52.72sec. It was the slowest time in Olympic history, albeit a personal best.

Moussambani was later hailed as the very embodiment of the Games spirit.

As well, most of you may have seen ‘Cool Running’ the movie about the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team competing even though they never had seen snow before.

All very inspirational stories of pride, determinations, friendship, dreams and teamwork to achieve great things- without a chance to win- but with a sense of pride for their country and for themselves.

Aren’t those many of the attributes we find in our great game and in our nation?

If Olympic golf could inspire future players to try the game, to play competitively or even just work in the industry, it would be great outcomes for the sport.

I’d love to then see golf get to the X-games, to open golf to the Paralympics, to continue in the Youth Olympics as pathways to playing in the Olympics, a professional career or working in the industry. The marketing message promoted would let the world know the game is open to everyone and not just the wealthy elite, which is what many still perceive the game to be.

The golf industry has done a terrible job in promoting a unified message about what we are all about.

I feel any publicity is good publicity in this case.

Reasons why not to have in Olympics

I’ve been keeping track of the various stories online on websites and community forums. There are a few recurring arguments on why golf shouldn’t be in the Olympics.

Though there may be some level of merit in the comments, I don’t believe they are strong enough to counter the fact that we need all the exposure we can get for the game.

Let’s all get behind it, not just players and national pride, but get behind golf as a whole and show the world what we are so passionate about.

“Olympics should only be for amateurs.”

The evolution of the Olympic movement during the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in several changes to the Olympic Games. Some of these adjustments include the creation of the Winter Olympic Games for ice and winter sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with a disability, and the Youth Olympic Games for teenage athletes.

The International Olympic Committee has had to adapt to a variety of economic, political, and technological advancements. As a result, the Olympics have shifted away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to allowing participation of professional athletes.

The growing importance of mass media created the issue of corporate sponsorship and commercialization of the Games to continue its ongoing success. Yes, money is at the heart of most things now days.

There is a legitimate argument for it to be only for amateurs but that is a larger argument for the Olympics as a whole, so let’s not have that diminish the opportunity we have this year.

Things do change and we can’t hang on to old ideals. It’s fair enough of a view, but it’s an Olympic issue not a golf issue, and times have changed due to market conditions. It is what it is so let’s move on.

“It’s not the pinnacle of their sport.”

Of course it’s not, how can it be the pinnacle of golf if it hasn’t been in the Olympics for over 100 years? Will it become the pinnacle in future generations? -Maybe it could for young golfers now that they can see it in the Olympics during their younger years, and players over time adopt the event as a “major” on the schedule?

Jason Day said he doesn’t blame some of his peers for pulling out of the Games because golfers’ careers, for the past century, have been judged based on the number of majors they won, not medals.

“You can’t really get angry at golfers for saying that they’re going to pull out of the Olympics,” he said, “because it’s never been on our radar to ever win a gold medal.”

“But? It’d be a really fantastic honour to win a gold medal, or any medal, in the Olympics,” Day said.

As it’s only a quadrennial event, could the Olympics raise to major status over time if the powers will allow it the proper space in the golfing calendar to have a fair chance to do so?

Yes, every year we have four majors for the men and five for the women. We have Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups, Solheim Cups, four World Golf Championship events, and every year here in Australia we have at least four events we can watch on television. Golf does have some profile but mostly to the golf converted. Golf in the Olympics will give a platform for the non-golfer as well to see our game. Will they take up the sport because of it? Maybe, maybe not- but it can’t hurt.

The fact is; top players knew about the event well in advance but did the US Tour do enough to make it fit easier into their already busy schedule? Was the format and qualifying conducive to attract the top players?

Is it worth too much in sponsorship dollars and ranking points for tours and players to miss regular events to play in Olympics?

*Bye-law 3 to Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter (commonly referred to in this context as “Rule 40”) states that: “Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.

Sometimes you just need to do things for a greater good!

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As for the pinnacle of the sport growing in time, well, you could argue that nearly 30 years on from tennis becoming an Olympic sport in 1988 I imagine very few, if any player, would consider a gold medal as important as a US Open or Wimbledon, or even an Australian or French Open. If they had already won other majors they may see it as icing on a career cake, but is that the way it should be seen?

The same sentiments apply in other major Olympic sports.

Chris Froome, the British cyclist, said he would prefer a Tour de France victory to an Olympic gold, and the Olympic football event is hardly the pinnacle of the sport. Yet, these sports still bring plenty to the Olympic table. They attract big crowds, television audiences and money to justify their place.

Australian tennis great and Olympic gold medal winner Todd Woodbridge is supporting golf as part of the Olympics by highlighting the success of tennis at the Games as an example.

“Every young player now plays to go to the Olympics. It’s in our psyche and is a very strong part of why we play,” he said.

“It is an integral part of tennis’s trophy cabinet, and if you don’t have it you’ve missed a link of your career.”

Woodbridge said golf needs to be given time to encroach on the next generation of players, trusting young players to aspire to represent their country at the Olympics much the same way they aspire to win any of the majors.

Whether or not the Olympic Games have helped boost individual sports has been a subject of debate.

According to figures released by Sport England after the Olympic Games in London 2012, the number of adults playing sport at least once a week had increased by 750,000 in the year following, and numbers showed a significant increases in the most successful Olympic sports, such as cycling and sailing.

“With almost two million people cycling once a week following a summer of unprecedented cycling success, this is our legacy in action,” British Cycling’s chief executive Ian Drake said in 2012 about the spike in participation of the sport.

“British Cycling has set new standards in elite sport and with these latest figures from Sport England, we can celebrate gold-medal results in grassroots participation.”

But there’s some ambiguity in the research.

While there are definitely some indications to say that the Olympics helped grow some sports in the aftermath of the event, other sports such as swimming and football, suffered a sharp downturn in participation during the same period.

Similar results have been found in Australia in relation to the Sydney Olympics in year 2000. Analysis of participation data found that while a moderate increase in adult sport participation occurred, non-Olympic sports witnessed stronger increases than the performing Olympic sports.

However, studies showed that Olympic sports achieved stronger participation growth among Australian children after the event.

The format of 72 holes is the wrong format.

Yes, four majors as well as Ryder Cup, World Cup and Presidents Cup already do fill the Team country category, so could the format had been more in line with this concept?

Antony Scanlon head of the International Golf Federation says “The Olympic Committee requested that 72 holes was played as it was the normal format that golf is competed through as well all players would be there for entire event.”

This is double edged, as it may be why some aren’t going to attend. With tight event schedules already, the need to be there for an entire week (plus travel) would be an added strain for some players to attend.

I believe for the 2020 Olympics that a proper team format, maybe even combined male/female players teamed together in some format, would be more interesting for spectators, viewers and players alike. How about amateur only or mixed amateur and pro as a team? This would allow more players to contest from each country.

Player qualifying criteria

The IOC has restricted the IGF to an Olympic field of 60 players for each of the men’s and women’s competition. The IGF will utilise the official world golf rankings to create the Olympic golf rankings as a method of determining eligibility. The top-15 world-ranked players will be eligible for the Olympics, with a limit of four players from a given country. Beyond the top-15, players will be eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15.

The Olympic field, once you get beyond the top 15 players, is potentially weak. It is anyone’s game if they are top 30 in the world, as they can consider themselves a realistic chance of winning any event that they tee up in.

Isn’t this the case for most regular tour events where an occasional ”no name” comes out of nowhere and wins, or at least makes it very interesting. Wouldn’t we all like an underdog to show up the top pros?

Health risk due to Zika virus

Health and safety are legitimate concerns for players, coaches, family etc. However, with the virus primarily affecting pregnant women, or ones wanting to get pregnant, I would expect more women to be opting out of playing.

Surprisingly, to date, not a single female player has publicly opted out of playing in Rio. The female players’ sentiment has been the one of excitement and honour to represent their country, and while the women are well aware of the health scare, none have backed out.

LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said the women “realize they have a big opportunity to grab the world’s attention and expand their fanbase.”

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Lydia Ko is one top LPGA players who is jumping at the opportunity of representing her country in the Olympics and helping to grow the sport, and believes the exclusiveness of such great sporting event outweighs any of the potential risks.

“I think the Olympics is a way of growing the game. As a fan of sports myself, I’ve turned on the TV and started learning about these different sports and different athletes. I think that’s how people out of the golfing industry will learn more about us, the LPGA players and PGA players.

“It’s not every week, not every year you get to do this, to represent your country, amongst the world’s best athletes in other sports, so I’m super excited about it, and there are just so many positives from Rio that golf can take.”

According to Golfweek, A University of Ottawa professor, writing in the Harvard Public Health Review, meant that the outbreak of the virus had intensified in the country since it was evaluated earlier this year, and that this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio should be “postponed, moved, or both, as a precautionary concession.”

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, who also sits on the board of the International Golf Federation, is not taking the warnings of the Zika virus lightly, but thinks the Games are going to be all right.

“If you asked me, ‘Let’s get together next week and put together another big tournament,’ I don’t think that’s what golf needs right now, necessarily,” Finchem told Golfweek last month.

“But the Olympics is unique. You’re talking about 3 billion people watching the sport on television; that’s one thing. When you think about the way it affects the culture of sport in certain countries, and opens that country up to look at golf as a mainstream sport, athletic sport, then that can really be a game-changer.”

In the end, the players are the ones that have to make this decision, and the Zika virus is fair enough of a concern for anyone.

The real issue in play has nothing to do with anyone’s particular decision to participate or not.

Several powerbrokers have sold the notion that golf’s inclusion in the Olympic Games will inspire countries around the globe to take up the sport.

Augusta National’s Billy Payne is certainly one of them.

“Interest in golf begins with kids seeing heroes, people they want to emulate and to copy. When golf is fun for people that they admire, heroes, great athletes that they admire, they themselves want to participate. And there’s no bigger stage than the Olympic Games to make that point,” said Payne.

“My experience has been when looking at the joy and the happiness of kids competing all across the board in various Olympic endeavours, that there is nothing, nothing, more powerful than representing your country. And so I suspect that you will see that take over and totally capture the enthusiasm of the players for golf.”

Golf is hoping, maybe in some circles even praying, that undeveloped countries for the game will suddenly become smitten with it. Or governments will subsidize participation in an attempt to pad medal counts in the future. Perhaps farfetched, but Payne also spoke to this recently.

“Having had some experience with the Olympics, it is the world’s largest platform to showcase sports, the largest and the best. When you start giving out awards, which have the effect of creating immense national pride, I think we will see almost immediately with golf’s inclusion in the Olympics, multiple countries starting using resources and capital into the development of their own golf programs, because these countries want to win medals. So I think it will be a very, very positive long-term effect,” said Payne.

Golf in the Olympics is about trying to reach a larger audience in order to inspire others to take up the game. In a roundabout way it has little to do with name player’s independent decisions to play or not. The real issue here is whether golf’s inclusion into the Olympic Games will filter down to countries that haven’t embraced it for a number of reasons, or even revitalise a new generation in major golfing nations. Then it will become a case of measuring whether in fact its efforts were successful or not.

“We can only hope it will have some impact- the amount we won’t know for the next 10 years”, says Anton Scanlon from IGF.

Will golf be important or make an impact for the Olympics- probably not much. Will the Olympics be good for golf- let’s hope so. But this won’t happen unless we all give it a chance to blossom over time and inspire future generations of players aspiring to participate.

Time will only tell- golf is in for now so let’s make the most of it. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Golf in the Olympics may be a lemon for some this year, but let’s make lemonade while we can!

We may not get another chance for another 100 years.

 

ABOUT AUTHOR

Mike Orloff is a US and Australian PGA Member with more than 25 years of industry-wide experience, including 18 years working for two of the biggest international golf management companies in Australia and the USA – American Golf Corporation and Clubcorp.

Now based on the Gold Coast, Australia, Mike is Managing Director for Golf Industry Central and consults to clients directly as well as via workshops and conferences in New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia.

Golf Industry Central was created by Mike in 2008 as a major golf industry portal for the Australasian region – offering news, jobs and operational, recruitment, grow the game and marketing advice all in one place.

ABOUT Olympics:

Olympic Format

72 holes of individual stroke play for both men and women (four rounds scheduled over four consecutive days). Scores are cumulative from round to round. The athlete with the lowest aggregate score wins. In the event of a tie for first, second or third place, a play-off or multiple play-offs shall be conducted for the purpose of determining the gold, silver and bronze medal winners.

For all rounds, the intention is to play in groups of three off the first tee. For rounds 1 and 2, groupings will be published no later than two (2) days before the start of the first event. For rounds 3 and 4, groupings will be done according to cumulative score at the end of the previous round, with the leaders teeing off last.

For more details on the qualification system for the 2016 Olympic Game, please click here and view the IGF Nationality Policy.

Youth Olympic Games

The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) is a sporting event for people aged 15 to 18. In addition to the sporting events, high level competition athletes will also have the opportunity to participate in a Culture and Education programme focusing on the following themes: Olympism and Olympic values, skills development, well-being and healthy lifestyle, social responsibility and expression through digital media.

The YOG are held biennially, alternating the summer and winter editions. Golf was included in the summer YOG in Nanjing in 2014, and will be featured again in Rio this year.

The National Olympic Committee (NOC) qualifies one Girl and one Boy to the competition, utilizing the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), the highest ranked place of each country’s man and woman is added together. The countries with the lowest 26 totals enable their NOC to qualify. Five (5) Universality Places per gender are available for eligible NOCs and One (1) Host Country place is available for each gender.

Those NOCs and their selected athletes, who qualify for the Girls and Boys Individual Stroke Play events, qualify for the mixed gender team event.

Source: International Golf Federation (IGF)

History of Golf in Olympics

In 1990, the Olympics were renamed by organisers who preferred “Championnats Internationaux.” The events were spread out over six months’ time and it was decided to stage a golf event. On 2 October, 12 gentlemen gathered to play 36 holes of golf at the Compiegne Club, north of Paris, though only a few of them may have realized it at the time, they were the participants in the first Olympic golf tournament.

Golf returned to the Olympics the following event in 1994, when Seventy-four Americans and three Canadians came to Glen Echo contest in the Olympic championship, which was later won by Canadian George Lyon.

The 1994 event was the last time golf was to be included in the Games, though there have been some attempts to revive the sport as an Olympic event. Golf-mad Britain was to host the 1908 Olympics and it seemed natural for the London organizers to include golf on the program. They planned a 108-hole stroke play event at three courses – Royal St. George’s and Prince’s GC, both in Sandwich, and Cinqueports GC in nearby Deal.

The Royal & Ancient, however, became embroiled in a dispute over eligibility with the Olympic organizing committee and all the British entrants withdrew.

At the following event, the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, golf was excluded, even though Sweden did host a few courses at the time, due to lack of interest for the sport in Scandinavia.

For similar reasons the golf event was cancelled again in the 1920 Olympics held in Antwerp, Belgium.

In 1936, a golf tournament was contested at Baden-Baden, Germany as an exhibition just prior to the Olympics.  Adolf Hitler donated a trophy and hoped to present it to a winning German team. With one round remaining, the German duo led. The next day, when Hitler arrived, foreign minister von Ribbentrop informed him that the British pair of Tony Thirsk and Arnold Bentley had broken a course record and won the tournament over the Germans. Hitler got back in his car and returned to Berlin, leaving the trophy presentation to the president of the German golf federation.

Source: International Golf Federation

History of Olympics

According to historical records, the first ancient Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 BC, but 1896 marked the beginning of the modern Games that has now lasted for over a century!

It was Pierre de Coubertin of France who dreamt up this ambitious project, although others before him had tried in vain to revive these Games. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Olympic Games, he decided to create the modern Olympic Games. With this purpose, he founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894 in Paris. The new committee set itself the objective of organising the first Olympic Games of modern times.

The Olympic Games include the Games of the Olympiad (i.e. the Summer Games) and the Olympic Winter Games. The first edition of the modern Summer Games was held in 1896 in Athens (Greece), and the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix (France).

The Olympic Games are unique. Athletes from the entire world take part. Their achievements are watched from both near and far by hundreds of millions of spectators. The five rings on the Olympic flag represent the international nature of the Games.

The Games are held every four years. They are the largest sporting celebration in the number of sports on the programme, the number of athletes present and the number of people from different nations gathered together at the same time in the same place.

The word Olympiad designates the four-year period that separates each edition of the Summer Games. Until 1992, the Summer and Winter Games were held in the same year, but since then, the Winter Games were moved two years from the Summer Games. In ancient times, the Games were held first on one day, and finally over five days. Today the official duration is no more than 16 days.

In contrast with the Olympic Games of Antiquity, each edition of the modern Games takes place in principle in a different city and country.

The ancient Olympic Games were the preserve of free male Greek citizens, whereas the modern Games have always been open to athletes from all over the world. The 245 participants in Athens in 1896 came from 14 different countries.

The 1912 Games in Stockholm, Sweden, were the first to boast the presence of national delegations from the five continents. The universality of the modern Olympic Games was assured. Today, the Summer Games welcome athletes from every country of the world, without exception.

In Ancient Greece, there were no female athletes at the first edition of the modern Olympic Games, only men competed. Women made their Olympic debut at the 1900 Games in Paris (France), in tennis and golf.

The modern Olympic Games were long open only to amateur athletes, in line with Pierre de Coubertin’s wishes. The IOC abolished this rule in 1984 (for the Games in Los Angeles), and since then professional athletes have also been able to take part.

Source: The Modern Olympic Games

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