Golf and rugby sevens return to the Olympic fold in Rio this summer
Rugby and golf will make their long awaited return to the Olympic Games this summer as Rio de Janeiro gears up for the 31st edition of the biggest sporting event in the world.
Golf, which is has been hit by a number of the world’s best players pulling out over fears of the Zika virus, will feature for the first time in 112 years. Rugby sevens is making its debut, though the 15-a-side game has featured previously, in Paris in 1924.
Kitesurfing was due to make its first appearance this summer after it was voted on to the schedule to replace windsurfing. However, just six months after the call was made officials controversially reversed the decision.
It’s the golf event though that is creating the most headlines, with the world’s top four players all announcing they won’t be taking part. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have all withdrawn citing fears over the Zika virus. There are many though that feel players are using the virus as an excuse, and that the Olympics simply isn’t considered a big deal for golfers with four major honours to play for each year.
American Zach Johnson was honest in his appraisal on the inclusion of golf in the Games, saying he’d rather be in his country’s Ryder Cup team in September. He also questioned the inclusion of football and basketball in the Games’ schedule, adding bigger prizes also exist in those sports.
UCFB’s Head of Complementary Curriculum, Neil Silver, is a huge golf fan, and like many believes it shouldn’t be an Olympic event.
Neil said: “Golf is a sport which has its own weekly tours, and for many of the world’s best players the Olympic Games is nothing more than a distraction. Even if golf did belong in Rio, the event has already been devalued by the top four players in the world pulling out thanks to fears surrounding the Zika virus – if that really is their reason.
“How will the gold medal winner feel knowing that he did not have to defeat Rory, or Jordan Spieth, en-route to the top of the podium?”
He added: “Golf is a fantastic sport, one of my favourites, and I love to watch it. But let’s leave the Olympics for the swimmers, gymnasts, athletes, and amateur boxers etc., and leave golf where it belongs on the PGA and European tours.”
Much like the football team in 2012, Team GB have gelled together the best of the home nations in a bid to win rugby sevens gold. And just like in London, the new team is unprecedented and no one really knows how it will turn out.
Australia are favourites to win the women’s gold, but it’s the men’s event that is harder to call. Fiji are renowned for their sevens teams, and backed that up by winning the most recent edition of the World Rugby Sevens Series. South Africa weren’t far behind, and New Zealand have the bonus of Sonny Bill Williams bidding for gold to complement his winner’s medal from last year’s Rugby World Cup.
The Rio Olympics take place from August 5th – August 21st.