No way should the world’s most pampered professional golfers be allowed to participate at the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro in 2016!
The impact of professional athletes on the Olympic Games has been a disaster since 1986 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) overturned the amateur requirement permitting professional athletes to compete. The results of many team competitions are a forgone conclusion when millionaire superstars from their respective sport play. Also, it defeats the purpose of the Olympic motto which is “faster, higher, stronger.”
Not only are the world’s best golfers not interested in this proposition, but their agents, whose sole function is to market and make their client millions, are going bonkers. This two-week extravaganza, scheduled for the summer of 2016, will be another week of golf without pay. Every fall the top America players compete for free in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. Did anyone tell the IOC these are millionaires who don’t work for free?
Sports purists predicted that professional athletes would ruin the Olympics if they were allowed to compete. The 1992 NBA Dream Team, featuring Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordon and Patrick Ewing, peaked peoples curiosity and jolted TV ratings en route to the gold medal, but certainly did not provide a stage allowing athletes to compete on an even playing field.
Today, the Olympic Games are the world’s largest pageant of athletic skill and competitive spirit. The ancient Olympics were once the biggest event in the world and the scene of several controversies, political boasts, public announcements and humiliation. After a 105 year hiatus, the IOC is “going green” and returning golf to its program, not because they think golfers are superior athletes, but because they believe the world’s best golfers will spike TV audience and profits. In fact, the IOC doesn’t want you to know that they don’t consider golfers athletes, because they don’t run and exemplify model physical specimens.
The truth of the matter is that when the 2016 Summer Games begin with four-days of 72-hole stroke play, and a 60-player field based on the official world rankings, it will be identical to many events on the PGA Tour schedule. The Olympic golf tournament will be nothing more than a gold-medal version of the WGC-World Cup.
Are we naïve to believe that a Tour golfer would want an Olympic gold medal over a green jacket or any of the other three major Championships? What advice would you give a Tour player in the twilight years of his career in 2016? Go for the gold or go for the first place check of $1million or any derivative of a tournament with a $6 million purse?
One thing is certain in 2016. It will be interesting to see what pros will be eligible to play for the United States, but instead decide to play for the big money opposite a Tour event. By its decision to allow golf onto the Olympic agenda, the IOC is clearly going for the money, which could attract a large TV audience translating in huge revenue for the Games. The tournament will not be a meaningful event. The IOC is blackmailing the best golfers in the world to play in the Olympics so that they can profit. Players not ready, willing and able to play might be considered unpatriotic.
The Olympic Games are not what they used to be and neither are the competitors. Controversies, ranging from drugs, sex and corporate sponsorship deals gone sour, have prevailed for decades. The greatest athlete of all time, Jim Thorpe, was stripped of his Olympic golf medals for playing professional baseball. He competed in 15 events in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and finished in the top-10 in all events against world class competition in four days.
Russian athletes always drew ire since they got around the “professional” label by putting all their athletes in the Army. That way all support, training and medical resources could be provided without actually calling them pros.
And who can forget one of the most indelible moments in the history of sports? The unbelievable “Miracle on Ice” United States hockey team of 1980, who beat the Russians in the semifinals and went on to win solid gold. I’m old school and much preferred the Olympics when professional athletes were not permitted to play. Local rags-to-riches Olympic heroes from that team included Jim Craig (Easton) and Mike Eruzione (Winthrop) will never be possible. Both winning athletes were considered heroes who put their home towns on the map, despite some public personal transgressions along the way.
Sure, golf’s popularity will grow by leaps and bounds around the world with Olympic exposure, but it’s still an elitist, expensive sport. Golf’s acceptance into the 2016 Olympic Games will serve as the sports’ own economic stimulus package for the IOC as well as equipment manufacturers, clothing companies, shoe companies and course design companies.
Where’s the money? Just hours after the IOC announcement in October that golf would be included in the 2016 games, Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo and a slew of prominent course designers expressed interest in designed or redesigning a course in Rio De Janeiro. None offered free or discounted services. Think they were driven by patriotism or money?
I have no interest in watching NBA or NHL players compete for a gold medal. And I have no interest in watching the world’s best players compete for a golf medal? They compete every week anyway for bigger stakes. Did you know that Steffi Graf won a gold medal to go along with her Grand Slam in tennis? Every four years we get to watch “athletes” participate in situations that we never could dream up.
Who knew squash, karate, table tennis, archery, rowing, curling, fencing, volleyball, badminton, wrestling, weightlifting, diving and of course, one of my all-time favorites, synchronized swimming, were so mesmerizing? Tuning into one these events every four years is one of life’s rare pleasantries!
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