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Golf and the Olympics: Strange bedfellows

Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2009 | 12:01 PM

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I saw Alex Baumann, one of Canada’s greatest Olympians, the other day in Dartmouth, N.S., at the World Sprint Canoe Championships. The legendary swimmer and I witnessed another Canadian Olympic icon, Adam van Koeverden, as he won a bronze medal in his kayak despite nursing a badly broken ankle.

“Can you believe golf’s back in the Olympics?” I asked Baumann.

He shook his head in amazement and turned his attention to what was happening out on the surface of beautiful Lake Banook.

That old Sesame Street tune sung by the Cookie Monster came to mind. “One of these things is not like the other things. One of these things just doesn’t belong.”

For a privileged few

He might as well have been singing about golf vis-a-vis the Olympic Games. Although it’s a great game and a modern day obsession of those who can afford the time and money to play it, golf is not - repeat not - Olympic.

Sure it was, at one time, played in Olympic competition and a Canadian named George Lyon won the gold medal in St. Louis back in 1904. But remember, there was also motor boat racing at the Olympics and polo and croquet for goodness sake. Like golf, these are not Olympic pursuits but rather pastimes of the privileged few.

Golf’s anticipated re-entry to the Olympic family in time for the 2016 Games - read Chicago - reeks of another money grab.

Strange choice

The return to the country-club mentality, which seeks to capitalize on the star power of Tiger Woods and a few others, while women ski jumpers can’t get a sniff of gender equality and place their sport in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics is hypocritical to say the least.

When will the people who currently run the Olympics understand that the Games are the pinnacle of athletic achievement? To be Olympic champion is an exalted state. For the likes of Woods it would merely be a feather in his Nike-festooned cap. For golfers, it’s the Masters or the British Open that matter most – not the Olympics.

One of the founders of the modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, once uttered the following words. “All sports for all people,” he declared. “In no way can sport be considered a luxury object.”

It’s doubtful he was talking about golf and the Olympics in the same breath.

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