Should Golf Be on the Olympic Program? In India, This Could Be the Year


As the world’s leading global sports organization, the IOC has always prided itself on providing athletes with a platform to inspire and excite generations. And that’s what the Olympic Games are all about. Golf is a very popular sport in India and around the world, and its inclusion in the Olympic program would be fantastic for our athletes and for golf itself. As an Olympic sport, golf will gain even more exposure in India among young people and families who love to watch sports. I believe that we could see some great Indian talent emerging in the men’s and women’s tournaments at Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and beyond.

India’s Sharmila Nicollet is one of a few female golfers who would like to see the sport in the Olympics.

When golf returns to the Olympic Games in 2016, India hopes to be represented. It’s been more than 100 years since the last native of the subcontinent competed in the sport at the Summer Games, and before that, only two Indians played in golf’s Olympic debut at Paris 1900. But India has a growing contingent of talented young professionals making their way around the globe on tours in Europe and Asia. They’re noticed by sponsors and tournament organizers, but they don’t yet have a significant voice in how their sport evolves.

What they want most is for golf to be included in the Olympics again after an absence of 112 years. That goal will be on display this week when 20-year-old Sharmila Nicollet hosts the inaugural Indian Open Ladies Golf Championship at her home course near Bangalore. The event will benefit from an exemption granted by professional golf’s European Tour, which promotes events with only men competitors on its schedule through 2016.

“Golf’s return to the Olympics has been widely opposed by top players and pundits, who cite its inclusion as clashing with the sport’s schedule, but it is a different story in India, where the sport could get a shot in the arm.

The Indian Golf Union (IGU) has announced that it will field three men and three women in Rio de Janeiro after they qualified on merit.

“We are happy with the way things have shaped up,” IGU secretary Digvijay Singh told AFP. “This is by far the best ever performance by our golfers.”

India has never won an Olympic medal in golf, but believes its players will profit in Rio from competing against more fancied rivals.

“Our boys and girls need exposure to top-level competition and that’s what they will get at the Games,” said Singh.

Among the leading contenders for India are Gaganjeet Bhullar, who made two cuts at this year’s PGA Tour majors — including a tied-16th finish at the US Open — and Anirban Lahiri, who is ranked 42nd in the world.”

Golf has not been played in the Olympics since 1904. However, it is now being considered as a sport for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will vote on this matter in 2009.

Golf is one of the fastest-growing sports in India. India’s first golf course was opened in 1829 by British officer John Sullivan at Kolkata’s Royal Calcutta Golf Club. Today, there are more than 200 golf courses in India. In 2004, India hosted its first PGA European Tour event at Delhi Golf Club, and Indian golfers have won many tournaments all over the world.

India could be a big contributor to golf’s success at the 2016 Olympics. Last year, India won more than fifty medals at the Commonwealth Games. The country has great potential to become an international power in golf as well.

Golf has been a part of the Summer Olympics on two occasions: in 1900 at the second games in Paris and in 1904 at St. Louis. But it was removed after that 1904 event, and given the sport’s obvious popularity in the U.S., many people have wondered why.

The idea of reintroducing golf to the Olympics came up again when Tiger Woods was dominating the game. He said he would be interested, but the golf establishment didn’t seem very enthusiastic. With its major championships and Ryder Cup matches, it is easy to see why. The schedule is already full, and these events pay off handsomely for players, tournaments and sponsors while also attracting large television audiences.

So why bring golf back? The answer is simple: India.

Golf has a strong following there as a result of British colonial rule, and Olympic officials are hoping to build on that interest by adding the sport to next year’s Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) asked for bids from Brazil, Colombia and Germany to host an 18-hole course for the 2016 Olympics but only Brazil expressed interest.

India remains an important target market for golf because of its rising middle class population–an estimated 300 million people–and its growing number of golf

Today, the International Olympic Committee will elect a host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics. It’s a choice between Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. In my opinion, that ought to be an easy decision. The IOC should choose Istanbul.

The Turkish city is by far the least experienced of the three at hosting major international sports events and has only one serious golf course (which will be used for Olympic play). But Istanbul also has huge potential for growth, as well as cultural, political and economic benefits that go far beyond any of its competitors’ abilities to deliver.

Golf’s brief re-appearance at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was a good first step toward regaining its standing among important sports competitions. But it wasn’t much of a competition at all; many of the game’s biggest stars skipped it because it came right after a major tournament and right before another.

“It’s unfortunate,” Rory McIlroy said at the time. “I’d love to have been a part of golf in the Olympics. I just don’t think it’s quite right yet.”

From a business perspective, golf’s participation in the Olympics is an unequivocal success. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) received a $1.4 billion rights fee from NBC for the Games between 2014 and 2020. That sum did not include the $100 million NBC separately paid for broadcasting rights to the golf tournament at this year’s Games.

Moreover, golf has thrived on other metrics as well. The PGA Tour has seen its purses double since 2008 and now boasts the largest purses in professional sports. In addition, elite golfers have seen their earnings skyrocket, with Tiger Woods’ endorsement portfolio alone reaching $100 million that same year.

But putting aside these tangible concerns, there are plenty of other reasons why golf should be in the Olympics. First and foremost, it promotes the growth of a sport that is already widely played around the world. This is especially true in developing countries where playing opportunities are often limited due to financial constraints and lack of interest among local governments. It is no coincidence that India’s first two top-ranked female players emerged after their country joined the Olympic movement in 2009 and began receiving training from foreign coaches subsidized by their national Olympic committee.

Second, it helps develop new audiences for elite-level competition by providing fans with a context


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