Harrington, Lomu champion golf and rugby’s Olympic bids

GOLF and rugby sevens face one last test on Friday if they are to be included in the Olympics from 2016. The International Olympic Committee’s executive board voted to include both at a meeting two months ago.

But the recommendation must be rubber-stamped by a full meeting of the IOC congress in Copenhagen.

Top golfers Pádraig Harrington and Michelle Wie and Kiwi rugby great Jonah Lomu will be part of their sport’s final presentations.

Also taking part will be Europe’s leading ladies golfer Suzann Pettersen and 16-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, the youngest ever winner of the British Amateur title and joint 13th at The Open in July,

The four will join Ty Votaw, executive director of the International Golf Federation’s Olympic Golf Committee, and Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Club and joint secretary of the IGF.

Golf and rugby sevens, the two sports recommended for the 2016 Olympic programme in Rio de Janeiro by the IOC Executive Board, will present their final case to the full membership before it votes that same day on whether to accept one, both or neither sport.

“We have demonstrated to the IOC Executive Board throughout the evaluation process that golf’s bid to become an Olympic sport has received unprecedented support from both amateur and professional golf organisations around the world and leading international players,” said Votaw.

“Now we must reaffirm this support before the full IOC membership and we couldn’t be more pleased than to have Pádraig, Suzann, Matteo and Michelle help to communicate this support during our final presentation.”

Leading up to Friday’s vote, golf and rugby sevens emerged from a year-long evaluation that included formal presentations by seven candidate sports.

Softball, squash, baseball, karate and roller sports were also in contention for Olympic spots until being eliminated by the executive board vote in August.

Golf was played at the Paris Games back in 1900 – when Walter Rutherford and David Robertson won silver and gold respectively for Great Britain – and four years later it was also played at St Louis, but has never returned to the Olympic agenda since.

One of the main issues has been whether top players will compete in the Olympics when they already have a full schedule, but superstar Tiger Woods indicated on Tuesday he would play.

The proposed format would be a 72-hole strokeplay competition for men and women, with 60 players in each field. The world’s top 15 players would qualify automatically, and all major professional tours would alter tournament schedules to avoid a clash with the Olympics.

IOC president Jacques Rogge believes winning an Olympic gold medal will remain one of the main ambitions for top golfers, despite the traditional lure of the four major championships – the US Masters, the British Open, the US Open and the USPGA.

Rogge said in August: “This is the young generation that will be at its peak in 2016. The same question was raised time and time again when tennis and ice hockey were introduced.

“Ask [top tennis players] Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, ask the NHL players, ask the NBA basketball players.

“They all want to go to the Games – they are absolutely not concerned about that.”

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