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The Loop

Now that the "where" part is out of the way

October 02, 2009

So Rio de Janeiro gets the 2016 Olympic Games. What does that mean for the chances of golf being approved for the '16 Games when the International Olympic Committee votes in Copenhagen Oct. 9? Most likely it will have no bearing at all. But if you had to rate the four suitors as host country on the golf-o-meter passion scale they would rank this way:

Unless Pele has taken up the game, it's very likely the best-known Brazilian golfer of all time is Angela Park, edging out Candy Hanneman. Not that I know all that much about South American golf courses, but the best course I can think of near Rio is in Argentina. Hey, blame it on the bossa nova.

Now that's not to say Rio is not a deserving winner. Surely, the fact no South American nation has ever played host to an Olympics is reason enough to go there. But the vote Oct. 2 in Copenhagen does make you wonder if anyone on the IOC has read the chilling story on the drug gangs of Rio in the most recent New Yorker. Performance-enhancing drugs might be the least of the IOC worries in 2016.

But I digress. Our mission, should we accept it, is to decide whether the selection of a country that appears to know about golf almost purely by rumor will hurt the chances of the sport getting a majority of the 106 delegate votes next week to gain access to the Games.

Certainly, if Chicago had won, part of the pitch to the IOC could have been the availability of Cog Hill as a venue for the Olympic golf. Having a public course and not a private club as part of the package would have helped the sell. After all, the Olympic Games are all about the purity of sport and have absolutely nothing to do with money (Does my tone of voice come through?)

The biggest obstacle facing golf in the final vote is not the fact Rio got the Games but rather the fact that some of those sports that lost out in the first round of voting - softball being one - are still campaigning to have both golf and rugby rejected.

The IOC can do one of three things next week: Let both golf and rugby into the 2016 Games; let one in and not the other; reject both. Those sports on the outside looking in want both rejected because it is more difficult to get a sport out once has been voted in. And the IOC has capped the number of allowable events.

There are still people out there bad-mouthing golf as British/American-dominated elitist game. This despite the fact that the father of the best player on the planet was an African-American, his mother is from Thailand and he grew up in the very middle class existence of a career military family. There is also the fact that one men's major championship this year was won by a player from Argentina and another by a Korean. Four of the last eight women's majors were won by players from Asia and Mexico.

Golf is clearly a global game that deserves to be in the Olympics, and I think that will ultimately hold sway in the Oct. 9 votes. Would it have helped golf if Chicago had won? Absolutely. Was Rio the least helpful possible winner for golf's chances? Absolutely.

But golf has one thing no one else has: Tiger Woods, who will be 40 in 2016. I say the game gets in on the coattails of the most widely-known athlete in the world. Now, there's something the IOC can sell - if it were interested in money and not just protecting the purity of the Olympic Games.

-- Ron Sirak