BERLIN, August 13 – Rugby Sevens and golf virtually secured their spots as the two new sports for the 2016 Olympic Games when the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Executive Board voted in their favour here on Thursday.
The decision, taken by secret ballot, is not binding as it has to be rubber-stamped by the entire IOC membership in a vote in Copenhagen in October – if successful it would take the amount of sports to 28.
Seven sports had been vying for inclusion to the 2016 Games, the venue for which will be voted on when the IOC meets in Denmark, with baseball, softball, rollersports, karate and squash all missing out.
For the five sports who lost out there is no hope of continuing their fight as IOC president Jacques Rogge has said they cannot come to the vote as an alternative option should one of the recommended sports be voted down.
Rugby, which in its traditional 15-a-side format featured at the Olympics four times at the start of the 20th century, had always been the front runner.
After failing in their previous bid to get into the 2012 Games the sport’s powerbrokers mounted an aggressive and effective campaign, with International Rugby Board (IRB) president Bernard Lapasset making it the priority of his first term of office.
His intention was to make it a truly global sport, ‘reaching out’ as he termed it, and as IRB chief executive Mike Miller pointed out the Sevens format is ideal for television as it is ‘fast and furious’ and also has the habit of producing upsets.
Golf, which also appeared briefly at the Games in the early 1900s, had attracted a certain amount of scepticism even from golf lovers, in that it was too elitist and also several members hardly espouse the IOC value of sexual equality as they belong to male-only golf clubs.
Also as Australian golfer Geoff Ogilvy declared at one point ‘we are not members of a team we are individuals and we decide where we play’.
2016 is also a Ryder Cup year.
Several potential Olympic contenders who may be on the cusp of qualifying for either the American or European teams could well prefer to play in another tournament so they can garner enough points to make their respective Ryder Cup teams.
Softball produced a very passionate campaign led by their Korean War veteran, president Don Porter, who had been stunned when they were voted out of the Games in Singapore in 2005.
Indeed in a poll in the extremely influential Olympic publication ‘Sports Intern’ they topped the poll of IOC members, experts and specialist journalists – golf was fifth.
However, in the end that meant little as Rogge once again showed he is without doubt the master of the IOC – having initially begun his regime looking a bit shaky – and his will prevailed.