Thursday, August 7, 2008

Golf in the Olympics: The Battle Continues

Fact or Fiction over at (which they've stopped doing on TV, it seems) debates the merits of having golf in the Olympics. My stance is that golf in the Olympics is a terrible idea. With that in mind, I have a problem with Ron Sirak's assumptions as to why golf should be in the Olympics.

There could be no more significant grow-the-game program for golf than making it an Olympic sport. Just imagine what it would mean for the golf economy and for the talent pool of the game if China or India, for example, got seriously committed to developing world-class golfers.
They are already starting to get serious about developing the game. Go ahead and Google golf in China or India and you'll see articles that point you to the growth of the game among the new middle and upper classes.

Before we get anywhere in growing world-class golfers, though, there has to be a generation of stability in the class system. I assure you that won't be completed by 2016. The fact is that - in most cases - money is required to get into this game at a world-class level.

Additionally, the game is growing in these two countries on its own. It does not need an Olympic distraction for a boring 72 hole event.
Having golf in the Olympics also would expand the fan base of the game by putting the sport in front of those spectators who love sports but might not necessarily watch golf. And once you get new people in the tent, a certain amount are bound to come back. It's a no-brainer: Golf in the Olympics would be great for the game.
Over half of the world lives on less than $1 dollar per day. Golf does not exactly represent a sport that all classes can appreciate. Combine both of those facts together and its not all that likely that golf will grow much, if at all, by having an event in the Olympics.

Also, Sirak seems to ignore the Tiger phenomenon when he says that once you get people watching, they'll keep coming back. That's BS. Read Tom Bonk's wrap up column every week and see the kind of ratings pain the Tour is feeling in his absence. That happens every time he doesn't play. People watch golf to see Tiger. If he's not there, it's a non-starter.

Last, golf will not be able to supplant sports like soccer, rugby, and cricket (the last two of which are being considered for reinstatement to the games) in terms of international attention. The Olympics will not change that one iota.

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