Golf and rugby set to return to the Olympic Games

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Both golf and rugby are set to return to the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee voted to include the sports at its executive board meeting in Berlin today. Rugby, specifically rugby union, and golf were selected over five other sports to be considered to participate in the Olympics. Squash, karate and roller sports tried to get onto the Olympic program as well as baseball and softball, which were voted out of the Olympic Games in 2005. The vote must still be ratified by the full IOC at it's October meeting in Copenhagen.

Golf will return after a 112-year absence from the Games; the sport was last played at the 1900 and 1904 Games. Rugby union, in its full 15-a-side version, was included in four Olympic Games, with its last appearance being in 1924.

If the sports are included after the October meeting, rugby will return to the Olympics as rugby sevens, a version of rugby union with seven players per side and 7- or 10-minute halves instead of the standard 40-minute halves. Elite rugby director Rob Andrew said that "Rugby Union is played in more than 100 countries and has a superb opportunity to further develop and grow through its new partnership with the IOC."

The format that has been proposed for golf is two 72-hole tournaments, one each for men and women, with 60 competitors each. The top 15 players in the world will qualify automatically and the major golf schedules will arrange around the Olympic Games.

Not all were happy with the proposed inclusions to the game. IOC President Jacques Rogge defended the decision, saying that "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."

One of the sports that lost out was squash. Squash Federation President N Ramachandran commented on his disappointment that squash was not included in the games.

If the sports are included, they will first be conducted in the 2016 Games. Women's boxing is now set to appear at the 2012 Games.