IOC President urges golfers to stay in Olympic Village during Rio Games
By Steve Douglas
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) – The head of the IOC is urging the world's top golfers to ditch the luxury hotels and "share the Olympic spirit" by staying in the athletes' village when the sport returns to the Olympic program in 2016.
"Because if they don't," IOC President Thomas Bach said, "afterward, they will regret it."
To prove his point, Bach recalled the case of the U.S. men's basketball team – the so-called Dream Team – "renting whole floors of hotels" during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, instead of staying in the village.
"We don't intend to make a whole lot of friends here," U.S. point guard John Stockton said at the time. "The Olympic spirit is beating people, not living with them."
Bach said that opinion was revised by the end.
"After the competition they made a tour through the Olympic Village," said Bach, who was speaking at the Open Championship at St. Andrews on Saturday. "We asked them how they think about this, and they said it was a great tournament, that we would like to come back definitely for the next games, but we have one condition.
"We were already starting to sweat what this condition may be. And the condition was 'we want to stay in the Olympic Village in the future'."
One player who is set to miss out on golf's return to the Olympics, after an absence of 112 years, is Tiger Woods.
The 14-time major champion has slumped to No. 241 in the rankings and is unlikely to qualify for the U.S. team, which will contain four players based on the current qualification criteria.
Woods, arguably the world's most famous sportsperson, has more pulling power than any other golfer when it comes to TV ratings. Bach said it would be a "pity" not to have Woods in the field but that it "would in no way influence the quality of the Olympic tournament."
Bach spoke to Woods at the skiing world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in February.
"He already said, 'I would love to play and I will do everything to qualify, but I'm not sure whether it will work,'" Bach said. "Seeing what's happening here, unfortunately maybe he was right, so I would really feel sorry for him."
Whether Woods plays or not, Bach said golf doesn't have to put on a spectacular show in its return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence except to have good competition among a wide range of the best players in the world. Instead, he said, it will be best to see how golf performs before deciding whether it was worth bringing the sport back to the games.
"I'm very sure that golf there will find its place," Bach said.
Bach was the latest to urge golf's tour to come into full compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency policy. The International Golf Federation, the governing body for golf in the Olympics, will produce a list of eligible athletes for the games on May 6. In the 13 weeks leading to the Olympics, they will fall under the Olympics' strict testing code which includes notifying officials of their daily whereabouts to be available for testing at any time.
"They all have to accept it," Bach said. "Prior to the games and from now on, I can only encourage PGA Tour to follow the WADA code, and finally to accept the WADA code and to be compliant with this so that you harmonized anti-doping regime there for all the golf players, and that you have an equal level of playing field for all the golfers."
R&A chief Peter Dawson said Wednesday he hoped that all tours "move toward being wider compliant at all times" after the Olympics. WADA's director general, David Howman, said he hoped that Rio would spur the PGA Tour and all other golf organizations to adopt WADA's "gold standard."
The Olympics will feature a 60-player field for men and women based on the world ranking. Countries are allowed a maximum of four players, but the third or fourth players must be among the top 15 in the world ranking. If the deadline were now, the United States would be the only country with more than two.
The format proposed is 72 holes of stroke play, just like most tournaments. There will be no team competition.
"The Olympic Games are about the best athletes of the world coming together, and there we do not need any additional, spectacular or great action," Bach said. "I think it would be good if you would have not only as many players from as many different national Olympic committees being qualified, but also broad distribution of medals and rankings."
Bach said the format could change for Tokyo in 2020 if necessary. He said adding a team medal depends on how that affects the maximum events allowed.
He also wasn't bothered by comments over the years that a gold medal at the Olympics won't have the same prestige as a green jacket from the Masters or a claret jug from the Open.
"Let them make the experience and then ask the gold medalist after he has been standing on the podium, listening to the anthem and being celebrated by the world," Bach said. "Then he will give you the answer – he or she."
Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Steve Douglas and Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.