The addition of golf and rugby sevens to the 2016 program would help enhance gender equity at the Olympics, Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said on Friday.
The International Olympic Committee’s executive board recommended on Thursday in Berlin that golf and rugby sevens be added to the Olympics, a move Coates said he “is very pleased to support.”
IOC members will vote at Copenhagen, Denmark in October on whether or not to uphold the proposal put by the board, which chose golf and rugby ahead of baseball, softball, karate, roller sports and squash.
Coates said “both sports are universal, offer absolute gender equity and have strong youth appeal.”
The executive board also voted to include women’s boxing on the program for the 2012 London Olympics.
“The IOC is striving for gender equity at the Olympics and boxing was the only sport where women could not compete until now,” Coates said.
“I have been a strong advocate for 50-50 participation for men and women at the Olympics for many years so it is pleasing to see golf and rugby back on the Olympic program this time with women competing.”
Coates said Australia would be strong medal contenders in both new sports. “Our women’s rugby sevens team is currently the world champion, and we are fortunate to have such depth in our golfing ranks,” Coates said.
The world’s top golfer Tiger Woods and Australia’s most well-known female golfer, Karrie Webb, both supported the inclusion of golf in 2016. “Tiger and the other top players realise an Olympic medal takes pride of place in any trophy cabinet,” Coates said.
“And in the women’s ranks, Karrie Webb wrote to me a few months ago urging me to support the inclusion of women’s golf so she could play at the Games.” Max Garske, chief executive officer of the PGA of Australia, said the addition of golf in 2016 would help the sport at grass-roots and other levels internationally.
“Government funding and support would significantly increase globally if golf was to become an Olympic sport,” Garske said. “With that funding increase will come greater accessibility for people who normally would not be exposed to the game.”
Steve Tew, chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union, said the same could happen with rugby sevens. “The amount of energy and effort that will go into our competitors’ preparation for their sevens program is likely to increase considerably,” Tew said. “I think the whole sevens circuit will become much more competitive than it already is.”
Golf was last played at the Olympics in 1904, while rugby made its last appearance in 1924.