Golf among seven sports making pitches for 2016 Olympics
LAUSANNE, Switzerland – With seven sports vying for inclusion in the 2016 Summer Games, Colin Montgomerie and Annika Sorenstam delivered the message Monday that winning an Olympic gold medal in golf would be as important as winning a major.
Montgomerie, the European Ryder Cup captain, and Sorenstam, the Swedish great who retired last year after winning 10 majors, were the biggest names on hand when the sports federations made pitches to the International Olympic Committee executive board.
Baseball, softball, rugby sevens, roller sports, squash and karate also put their case to the board, which will meet in Berlin on Aug. 13 to select two sports to put forward for ratification at the IOC general assembly in Copenhagen in October.
“All seven sports made interesting and informative presentations,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement. “All have something to offer. In the end, the decision will come down to which are the best fit for the Olympic program.”
Golf and rugby sevens – a shortened version of the more established 15-a-side game – have emerged as the favorites for acceptance on the Olympic program.
Golf was played at the 1900 Paris Olympics and 1904 St. Louis Games, where only Canada and the United States competed.
One of the main issues has been whether golf’s top multimillionaire players would bother to compete in the Olympics, when they already have a full schedule of majors, tour events and international team competitions.
Montgomerie and Sorenstam came to Lausanne to provide the answer.
“I can’t think of a tougher championship,” Sorenstam said. “You only get a chance to win once every four years rather than four times a year. The moments when you represent your own country are the highlights of your career. It doesn’t happen very often. There is something special about that.”
Montgomerie, who failed to qualify for this week’s U.S. Open, said winning an Olympic gold would make up for never having captured one of golf’s four majors.
“To be the first gold medal winner in 117 years? Definitely,” the Scotsman said. “I’ll be 53 in 2016. If I’m in the top six in the world, my God, I’ll be there.
“Yes, we have our major championships that are the top of the game of golf, but it’s certainly not at the top of sport,” Montgomerie said. “We want to bring golf to the pinnacle of sport.”
Underlining the message was golf’s video featuring support from Jack Nicklaus, top-ranked Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa, and young stars Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.
“We shot under par,” Sorenstam said of the closed-door presentation.
The IOC’s final decision will be made on Oct. 9, seven days after the 2016 host city is selected from Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
In a new twist, the IOC said Monday that even those five sports that fail to make the cut in August will be invited to Copenhagen. If the two recommended sports fail to win majority approval from the IOC assembly, it’s possible the other five could still get a chance to be voted onto the program, IOC sports director Christophe Dubi said.
Softball and baseball are seeking a return to the Olympics after being voted off the program for the 2012 London Games in 2005. The other five failed to win enough votes for inclusion in 2005.
On Monday, International Baseball Federation president Harvey Schiller told the IOC that Major League Baseball would not schedule any games on the day of the Olympic medal games and would not televise MLB games that clash with the Olympic tournament.
Baseball – which has failed to bring top major league players to the Olympics – is offering a shortened five-day, eight-team format intended to ensure the participation of a “selection of the best players available.”
“We expect to be able … to have a plan which will allow us to have a representative number of players, much as the other (Olympic) sports that have ongoing seasons,” said Donald Fehr, head of the major league players’ union.
Baseball also addressed concerns about performance-enhancing drugs in the sport, bringing anti-doping manager Jean-Pierre Moser to the presentation and saying the international federation was compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.
The softball federation stressed its work in developing the sport among youth and women in the Middle East and Africa, and distanced itself from baseball. Softball rejected a recent proposal to combine its bid with baseball, and has offered to include a men’s softball tournament in the Olympics.
“I made it very clear in our presentation that we unequivocally are not part of baseball,” IBF president Don Porter said. “It’s important for our sport to be independent.”
Rugby, whose delegation included former Argentina captain Agustin Pichot, told the IOC that the seven-a-side format is perfectly suited for the Olympics and other multisport competitions.
Squash said it was a truly international sport, with athletes from all five continents. Karate emphasized its low costs, saying it could share a venue with sports already on the program. And roller sports, which proposes inline skating street races, said it was a dynamic sport with youth appeal.
“We don’t need any facilities,” roller sports federation general secretary Roberto Marotta. “We can hold it in a car park or on a road.”
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