If you imagine Billy Crystal’s reaction, doing his best Mafioso accent, after reading that another athlete is in the headlines about not wanting to participate in the Summer Games in Brazil. This is the thought that came into my head when I heard this week that Rory is passing on this supreme opportunity as golf returns to the Olympics after 100 years.
Not withstanding Zika, unsanitary water, fear of being mugged, or the complete fracturing of the political system in the country, who really cares whether any of these high profile super wealthy athletes decide to show up. More important who cares whether golf returns to the Olympics at all.
To me this is all a cash grab on the part of the IOC and NBC who have very little interest in the health and well being of the sport and only want to collect fees as a result of selling Doritos and Diet Coke to viewers across the globe.
Rory has about this same level of enthusiasm for playing in RioEmbed from Getty Images
As Greenie from Mike and Mike said this morning on his show, the Olympics should have sports participating where winning the gold medal represents the pinnacle achievement in their game. That is how it used to be. Fencing, swimming, gymnastics, track and field, white water slalom….there were no other forums for these athletes to excel and therefore enrich their careers. The Olympic exposure is there meal ticket.
In spite of the fact that the NBA used the exposure of the Dream Teams of the 90’s to “globalize” their product-this year 15 of the first 30 guys picked in the NBA draft were international players-this was happening anyway as scouts from the NBA began to travel across the globe in search of new talent. Once that talent signed on-the TV rights back into those countries followed as did the cash payouts for the league.
Folks like Lebron James, Steph Curry, Candace Parker, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Lionel Messi, and Erin McLeod do not need the exposure, the money, or the additional wear and tear on their bodies just for the chance to add another gold implement to their trophy case.
The selling of golf in the Olympics is particularly puzzling. On the men’s side there are two majors, a few World Golf Championships, a FedEx Cup Championship, and a Ryder Cup already putting demands on their schedules in a two month period. Where does a week off in appetizing Rio fit into this. For the women who already have a dominated foreign presence who needs to expose the sport even more in South Korea, China, or Spain than it already is.
What is worse is that the format for the return of golf to the Olympics is a four round individual stroke play competition. There is no team aspect to this at all no drama of head-to-head matches. They could have chosen a cool team format like the LPGA International Crown or a pool version of match play like the revised WGC Match Play but instead decided to make it just another medal play week on either tour. This will create the absolute minimum of partisan displays by the fans in attendance.
Another lavish Olympic facility that few will use after the games are doneEmbed from Getty Images
As to the benefit to Brazil, yes they have an expensive first class Gil Hanse designed golf course as a result. But they do not have the government cash to keep it up after the games and likely do not have the regional demand of well heeled players to support it either. Ten years from now it will look like another tired, overgrown muni with great architectural bones.
Getting back to the health, welfare, and safety considerations of these uber wealthy athletes, if you don’t need the Olympics to stoke your bank balance and help create your personal nest egg why would you willfully go to a place where you have to bring a personal body guard, a stash of bottled water, and disinfect yourself after you take a shower. Does not seem like a sound career move.
If it wasn’t for the financial commitment of NBC and their sponsors the Olympics would have been moved to another safer more neutral venue a year ago. Conversations about how meaningful bringing golf back to the Olympics for growth of the game have a very hollow sound to me.