Golf wins key approval for 2016 Games

The Olympic rings are seen on June 16, 2009 at the entrance of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Golf is on course to be included in the 2016 Olympic Games after the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board gave the sport its approval in Berlin today.

The Executive Board picked golf and rugby sevens over baseball, softball, squash, karate and roller sports for the 2016 Games, the site of which remains undecided.

Only one hurdle stands in the way of golf’s inclusion: IOC members have the final say at a vote Oct. 9 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They will make the ultimate decision on whether the two sports are accepted into the Olympic Games.

“This is only a proposal. It’s not a decision, but I hope the session approves them,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said.

The Executive Board’s recommendation culminates a 16-month effort in which golf’s worldwide leaders presented a unified front and lobbied for their sport. They emphasized golf’s growing global popularity, top players’ interest in competing in the Games and how golf’s values mirror Olympic ideals. On the men’s side, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, K.J. Choi, Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas and Sergio Garcia are among those on record as having said they want to play. Among top women, Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Petterson are interested.

“We believe we presented a very compelling case,” said Ty Votaw, executive director of the International Golf Federation’s Olympic committee that spearheaded the Olympic bid. “We look forward to October.”

Added R&A chief executive Peter Dawson: “We will be celebrating a little, but it’s not yet decided. . . However, my gut feeling is that it would be very hard to see IOC members going against the wishes of the Executive Board. But we are not complacent. We will be sending IOC members the proposal we made to the Executive Board, which highlights golf’s credentials, and we hope the members agree with us.”

Golf’s leaders say Olympic participation would have tremendous impact on the game’s growth. They say it will renew interest in the game in mature golf markets and engage new fans and participants in emerging markets, such as China.

If selected, golf would make a return to the Summer Games after a 112-year absence. Golf was last played in the Olympics in 1904 when Canadian George Lyon won the gold medal in St. Louis. It also was played in Paris in 1900.

In 2016, Olympic golf is sure to draw top competitors from a host of nations.

“Japanese people love golf and no matter where (the Olympics) is going to be held, it will be followed greatly,” LPGA player Ai Miyazato said. “Personally, I’ve had many chances to represent my country as a junior golfer, but doing so in the Olympics would definitely be one of the highlights of my career.”

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