POSTED: October 9th 2009

IOC votes rugby sevens and golf into 2016 Rio Games

Padraig Harrington: out of the Oympic bunker /
Padraig Harrington: out of the Oympic bunker /

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT / Sports Features Communications

COPENHAGEN: The Olympic movement leaned towards a commercial agenda when the sevens version of rugby union and golf were voted into the summer Games for Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and also for 2020.

The executive board of the International Olympic Committee, after an exhaustive bidding campaign whose length and expense irritated some of the five unlucky sports, had backed both sevens and golf at a meeting in Berlin on August 13.

The two sports, under new rules introduced after the Singapore controversies of four years ago, were then voted in by simple, separate majorities by the IOC Congress at the Bella Center in Copenhagen.

IOC president Jacques Rogge, who had noted earlier this year the need for new sports to offer both reach and ratings, said: “Congratulations to both federations. We all look forward to great competition in 2016 and 2020.” Rugby won through 81-8 and golf 63-27. Those votes echoed the shape of the votes within the EB in Berlin – with rugby being accepted far more readily than golf.

Rugby’s success was a second Congress victory for English marketing specialist Mike Lee, of Verocom, who had helped steer Rio to success in the 2016 host city race.

Historic return

Bernard Lapasset, president of the International Rugby Board, said: “This is a historic moment for rugby, returning to the Olympic family for the first time in 90 years.” Secretary-general Mike Miller said the IRB was confident of putting on a spectacle in Rio to guarantee future inclusion in the Games.

Miller added: “Rugby and Rio are made for each other; sevens is a huge festival, and great sports and a great time is what the Olympic Games is all about.”

Golf had a more bumpy ride. Canadian IOC member Dick Pound complained about the new rules governing the accession process and Anita DeFrantz fretted over the fact that one of the world’s most renowned golf clubs, Augusta National, is male-only. Both DeFrantz and Augusta National are American.

Peter Dawson, acting president of the International Golf Federation, responded: “We have 60million golfers in the world of whom 25 per cent are women. Single-sex clubs for men or indeed for women make up 0.5 per cent and is reducing, and inclusion in the Olympic Games will further consolidate the equality of the sport.”

Golf’s presentation delegation included top players Padraig Harrington and Michelle Wie. Harrington said: “I believe that, in time, the Olympic gold will become the most important event in golf and I don't believe it will take that long. In the four years between the Olympics there will be 16 majors, so winning gold will be that much more special.”

Keywords · IOC · rugby sevens · golf · Lapasset · Miller · Harrington · Wie

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