Will Tiger Woods Go for Gold? Golf, Rugby Approved as Olympic Sports
COPENHAGEN – Tiger Woods can begin his quest for a gold medal, after golf was approved as an Olympic sport Friday along with rugby sevens.
Both sports will be included in the 2016 and 2020 Summer Games, following a vote by the International Olympic Committee.
Each sport received majority support in separate votes by the IOC after leading athletes and officials from both camps gave presentations, including a taped video message from Woods and other top pros. Woods has indicated he would play in the Olympics if golf were accepted for 2016.
"There are millions of young golfers worldwide who would be proud to represent their country," Woods said from the Presidents Cup. "It would be an honor for anyone who plays this game to become an Olympian."
Golf was approved 63-27 with two abstentions. Rugby was voted in 81-8 with one abstention.
Rugby will organize a four-day seven-a-side tournament — instead of the more traditional 15-a-side game — for 12 men's and women's teams. Golf will stage a 72-hole strokeplay tournament for men and women, with 60 players in each field.
Rugby and golf both made their Olympic debuts at the second modern games in Paris in 1900. Golf was only played again at the 1904 St. Louis Games, while 15-a-side rugby featured three more times, making its last appearance in the 1924 Paris Olympics.
Padraig Harrington and Michelle Wie addressed the IOC in person before the vote. Wie talked about starting to play golf as a 4-year-old, but never being able to dream of an Olympic medal until now.
"I can dream about doing something that neither Tiger nor Ernie (Els) have ever done, and that is to make the final putt to win an Olympic gold medal," Wie said. "If this dream comes true, somewhere in the world there will be another 4-year-old who sees me on that podium and perhaps starts her own Olympic dream."
Rugby officials touted their sport as a modern game that can attract young fans and new sponsors.
"The sevens format is made for television, made for sponsors, and most importantly loved for fans and players alike," said bid leader Mike Miller, the secretary-general of the International Rugby Board.
The vote brings the number of summer Olympic sports back to 28. There have been two openings on the program since baseball and softball were dropped in 2005 for the 2012 London Games.
Golf gave a commitment to the IOC that it would not stage any major championships on the Olympic dates. The Rugby Sevens World Cup will be canceled now that the sport has been added to the Olympics.
They are the first new sports added since triathlon and taekwondo joined the program for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
The vote was a reversal of the IOC's decision four years ago to reject golf and rugby's inclusion in the 2012 Olympics. Their status for the 2020 Olympics will be reviewed by the IOC in 2017.
Friday's vote was also a victory for Jacques Rogge, the IOC president who was re-elected to a final four-year term just hours earlier.
"Time will show your decision (on the new sports) was very wise," Rogge said.
Golf and rugby were put forward by the executive board in August under Rogge's guidance, at the expense of five other sports which were cut — baseball, softball, squash, karate and roller sports.
The selection process angered some IOC members, who wanted all seven sports put to a vote by the entire assembly. Senior Canadian member Dick Pound complained before the vote that the members were never told why the two sports were selected over the other five.
"It is not fair to the other five sports," Pound said. "Because you decided the way you did, it is not a transparent process."
The new selection system was put in place after the IOC failed to agree on which two sports should be added to the 2012 program, leaving the London Games with just 26 sports instead of the usual 28. A similar failure this time would have been a blow to both Rogge and the executive board.