While I personally held no stock in Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid, I couldn’t help but feel a twang of patriotic disappointment when Rio was announced as the host city. But given the excitement that Chicago has experienced in the past year, what with its recently elected, and Nobel Peace prize-winning, Chicagoan president, I figured that the Windy City has enough to celebrate for the next six years to pad any bruises from the loss.
But what came as a long-awaited and exciting surprise was the announcement that golf and rugby will be added as events in the 2016 summer Olympic games.
After all, trampolining — which is merely diving without water, or ski-jumping without slopes — is an Olympic sport. How could it be that golf, the sport that is responsible for the multi-million dollar endorsement empire of Tiger Woods, be on an Olympic hiatus for over a century?
And, though rugby has less of an impact on American sports culture, it thrives as one the largest sports worldwide.
Golf only appeared as an Olympic sport twice in its history — once in 1900 and the following summer term in 1904. The game featured women’s and men’s individual and team matches, as it will be when it returns to Rio in 2016. Similarly, rugby made its debut in the first games of the 20th century but appeared four more times in the summer events until 1936. The U.S. team claimed gold in 1920 and 1924.
“Both golf and rugby are very popular sports with global appeal and a strong ethic,” said International Olympics Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge after the announcement of the newly included events.
But as the IOC continues to meet in the inter-Olympic periods, one has to ask if the committee is becoming a little sport-happy. Certainly the Olympics are supposed to create and foster a sense of nationalism among international communities, but will there ever be an end to the addition of events that consume our summers every four years?
In 2016, 38 disciplines will be featured over the course of two weeks. With already so many events and so little airtime during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, NBC struggled to designate enough time to each sport. At this level of Olympic growth, another network will have to pick up the games so that viewers can watch their choice sports in undisturbed peace. Though there will be inevitable economic benefit from the athletic additions, more space and more money will be required for the construction of extra facilities.
Additionally, each Olympic country will have to increase national spending in order to train athletes for the newly added events. Though this economic issue applies less to golf since it is an individual sport, the game will still feature a team component. Perhaps it is hard to see the benefits in anything with large costs during the current economic recession — let’s just hope that by 2016 things have started to look up.
This is not to underwrite the excitement of the addition of two internationally popular and, in my opinion, necessary, Olympic sports. But at some point the IOC will see that bigger isn’t always better.