Golf and rugby included as Olympic sports
COPENHAGEN -Golf has a tee time for 2016, and Tiger Woods can hardly wait. The sport returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 amid the spectacular backdrop of Rio de Janeiro’s sand and sea, giving Woods the chance to do something even the great Jack Nicklaus never did — win Olympic gold.
The vote for golf was expected, following a campaign by the sport’s leaders to bring it back for the first time since George Lyon and the United States won gold medals at the Olympics in St. Louis.
Nicklaus himself said Olympic gold would not trump the green jacket given the winner of the Masters or the claret jug awarded in the British Open, but would be seen as something hugely important in countries where the game now doesn’t mean nearly as much.
“We were ecstatic and wanted to jump on the table, but we sort of restrained ourselves,” former New Zealand rugby great Jonah Lomu told The Associated Press. “It was just fantastic for the game.”
Both golf and rugby had to make some concessions to win their respective vote. Golf promised the IOC it would not stage any other major championships during the Olympics, while the Rugby Sevens World Cup will be canceled.
The vote was a reversal of the IOC’s decision four years ago to reject golf and rugby for the 2012 Olympics, and brings the number of summer Olympic sports back to 28. There have been two openings on the program since baseball and softball were dropped in 2005 for the 2012 London Games.
“Time will show your decision (on the sports) was very wise,” IOC president Jacques Rogge told delegates. Rogge won a vote of his own when he was elected unopposed to a final four-year term.
“There are some serious problems with some clubs where major events are held, in terms of discrimination,” American member Anita DeFrantz said, urging the IOC to “avoid going down a road that may be harmful to our image.”
“Anything that grows the game, gets more people playing the game and more people watching the game, impacts all of those things,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.
How does a sport become Olympic?
Chess eliminated as event by IOC
Should Chess Be an Olympic Sport?
By Meaghan Haire
Tuesday, Aug. 05, 2008
What makes an Olympic sport? The games that get the official nod from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can be controversial and sometimes bewildering: rhythmic gymnastics is considered a competitive Olympic sport, but ballroom dancing is not. Handball and badminton are part of the program, yet rugby and squash don’t make the cut. Among the 28 sanctioned sports for 2012, you can find table tennis but not golf, baseball, softball or racquetball.
Curling is also on the official Olympic roster, and that really piques Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Curling is simply “chess on ice, and it is an Olympic sport,” he says, “but classical chess is not!” Ilyumzhinov has been struggling for over a decade to get the board game of chess, a “sport of the mind,” accepted by the IOC.
The World Bridge Federation (WBF) — representing the card game of bridge — is similarly disgruntled. Like the chess federation, the WBF has been lobbying since 1995 to claim a piece of the Olympic spotlight. In their efforts, both organizations have even offered to submit players to drug testing in order to conform to the Olympics’ anti-doping code standards. Once again, however, both bridge and chess were denied entry last year.
Neither FIDE nor WBF is taking the rejection lightly. Gaining recognition as an official Olympic sport could greatly benefit the games, raising their profiles in countries where they don’t get much government funding.
At one point, FIDE considered suing the IOC in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which handles international sport disputes in Lausanne, Switzerland, but later relented. Peter Rajcsanyi, public-relations director of FIDE, admits that “our strength is not in the court” and that FIDE is now in “the process of serious negotiations [with the IOC] and improving relations.”
To that end, the chess organization has opened an office in Lausanne with the aim of getting closer to IOC officials, as well as promoting chess as an international sport, Rajcsanyi says.
Adding official sports to the Games is a tricky matter, in part because of the bloated size of the event. IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau says the Olympic Games are already so big that many cities can’t accommodate them. So when IOC president Jacques Rogge took office in 2001, he capped the number of sports at 35 (28 in summer, seven in winter) and implemented a regular review process to avoid further expanding the Olympic program.
The IOC now votes on new sports and reviews existing ones, based on thorough technical analyses and specific criteria, after each Olympics. (The Beijing Games will be the last to include baseball and softball; the IOC has cut them for 2012.) The IOC granted the bridge and chess organizations Recognized International Sports Federations status in 1995 and 1999 respectively, but says it hasn’t accepted either game into the official register because they both lack the essential feature of physical activity.
“Mind sports, by their nature, cannot be part of the program,” says Moreau, though she says the IOC hasn’t rejected their bids entirely.
“In the ancient Olympic Games, the element of cultural and mental activity was present,” Rajcsanyi counters. Indeed, the ancient Olympic Games included contests in music, theater, poetry and other arts. “In the Olympic Games, until the Second World War, there were competitions that rewarded the mental efforts of people in the same manner they rewarded physical efforts,” he adds. “Today, the missing element of the intellectual competition can be reintroduced by the involvement of chess, and perhaps bridge.”
Bridge enthusiasts would further disagree with the characterization of the card game as a nonphysical activity. Dan Morse, secretary of WBF and president of the American Contract Bridge League, says, “We think bridge is a sport. It requires stamina, brain power and concentration … Bridge is a sport just like baseball and football. It requires training and strenuous exercise. It is more than just a game.” The national Olympic committees of some countries have already accepted bridge as an official sport. Before the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, WBF held an exhibition competition, and the chess federation held two similar matches at the Sydney Games in 2000.
For now, both FIDE and WBF will continue their global crusades for Olympic acceptance. This fall, bridge and chess players will compete in the first-ever World Mind Sports Games in a venue familiar to international sports lovers — Beijing. More than 3,000 competitors from at least 150 nations will vie for 35 gold medals in chess, bridge, draughts (checkers), Go and xiang qi (a Chinese version of chess). The event will take place at the National Convention Centre, in the heart of the Beijing Olympics site.
The Mind Games, Rajcsanyi says, will “show to the world that these games require effort, competence and determination just like any other sport” and “can bring joy, happiness and spectacle to the participants and to the audience.”
Georgios Makropoulos, deputy president of FIDE and the International Mind Sports Association, agrees: “We hope that this event in Beijing will be so important and so big that the IOC will understand that they need us.”
When Kirsan became President of FIDE in 1995, one of his priorities was to move chess closer to the IOC movement, with inclusion into the Olympics being a natural next step. In 1999 chess was officially recognized by the IOC, but to this day the next step seems ever likely never to happen. Infact, most chess players are beginning to wish that FIDE had not invested the time and energy put into this project, as the organization has gradually lost its prestige, visibility and identity in the modern world.
Not wanting to enter into the argument over whether chess is a sport or not, I am of the opinion that the future of chess rests in the realm of culture. Chess is a great game, popular and with a rich history, and this tradition should be protected from overly ambitious chess politicians who want to make abrupt changes.
It is impossible to compete with sports like tennis and football, and chess has been losing a battle in the competition for sponsorship dollars. I believe that a new leadership is necessary at the helm in FIDE, one that will restore traditional values and long standing respect for the game.
The efforts of FIDE President Kirsan have failed totally. The game today is very different from what it was even 25 years ago: it is too fast and players are being burdened by autocratic rules that do nothing to improve either the game’s stature or visibility and attractiveness to sponsors.
On top of this, the FIDE world championshp cycle is chaotic (at best) and most agree that the element of luck is so high that few of the strongest players have a real chance to show what they can do. There are virtually no sponsors who are even remotely interested in putting their name onto the final World Championshp match.
It is time for changes in FIDE.