For those who haven’t been paying attention, every Olympics comes with its own set of controversies. Sometimes everything looks good, until show time (1972 Munich), other times its hyperbole around security (London 2012 spent £600 million mainly over concerns raised by 2011 England riots). We have held Olympics in countries with poor/really bad human rights records (2008 Beijing), we have seen Olympics moved (1920 Summer , 1976 Winter), and we have seen a lot of Olympic boycotts (1936, 1956, 1976, 1980 Winter, 1980 Summer, 1984, 1988 Summer). Oh, and in 1936 the Nazis got to host the Olympics (in the IOC’s defense the Nazis weren’t around when they awarded the Games in 1931).
Given the volatile history of the Olympic movement and the fact it is unlikely to change, I wonder what the long term prognosis is for golf as an Olympic sport? Can PGA Tour players, with the means to not participate in the Olympics, resign themselves to an Olympic movement that will time and time again walk the fine line between the comforts of the first world and exploring new territory in the second world (maybe even third world some day), where its not as safe, on a number of fronts.
The reality is that NBA players, PGA Tour players, European Tour Players, WTA Tour Players and ATP Tour Players don’t need to go to the Olympics (could include the very top of the LPGA as well I suppose). For most of them the Olympics doesn’t mean more/better endorsement deals, winning doesn’t come with direct financial incentives that would be anything more than a drop in a very large bucket, and an Olympic medal doesn’t represent the top achievement in their sport.
Contrast this with a Canadian rower/kayaker/swimmer/ etc, who’s main source of income is the $18 -20,000 annually he/she gets through the Canadian Athlete Assistance Program. On top of that they may have some sponsors (family friends most likely) and some winnings from international competitions. This individual, whether they feel overly comfortable about their safety or not, is going to Rio, polluted water, Zika virus and all. The stakes are too high not to. For this individual, winning a medal at the Olympics isn’t icing on the cake, it’s the cake, their livelihood depends on it.
I get that individuals have to take care of themselves and I don’t blame the golfers for having to make the decision that is best for them. I am disappointing that as a whole (or at least a portion of the whole) golf (male golf so far) has decided that the Olympics just aren’t worth the risk. Unfortunately for them, there will be few Olympics that come with no risk. Anyone saying, lets just get through Rio and look forward to Tokyo in 2020 is day dreaming, Tokyo will have their own issues that will require athletes to accept a certain level of risk.
See you at the turn,