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Golf still possible at 2012 Olympics

Rugby gave an upbeat response while golf was more measured when the two sports heard on Wednesday their chances of inclusion at the 2012 Olympics had marginally improved.

Either of those sports -- which have been shortlisted with squash, roller sports and karate -- could be added to the Games programme if a vote by the International Olympic Committee on July 8 removes one of the existing 28.

"This is very encouraging news," Mark Egan, the International Rugby Board's (IRB's) Sevens tournament manager, told Reuters.

"Rugby has a lot to offer the Olympic Games and we believe we have an extremely strong case to be included.

"At the recent Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong, six IOC members attended the event and two of those gave us positive reports on what they saw.

"We had a 120,000 sell-out in Hong Kong over the three days and 700 million homes were broadcast to in over 100 countries in 11 languages, so we had a tremendous response at that event the fact."

Golf, like rugby, has previously been an Olympic sport and is played right across the globe.

However, scheduling problems are viewed as a potential obstacle to inclusion by the Royal and Ancient Club (R&A), which governs golf outside the United States and Mexico.

"It's true to say that the two (European and PGA) tours are less supportive than they were (about golf's return to the Olympics)," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson told Reuters.

"They have issues over the scheduling of the (Olympic) event which could conflict (with tour tournaments).

"We've made it very clear to the IOC that there are potentially huge scheduling difficulties. The thing I didn't realise is that the bidding cities for 2012 have some flexibility as to the dates (when the Olympics will be held)."

The R&A, however, is backing golf's bid to reappear at the Olympics.

All 28 Olympic sports will face the vote in Singapore and must win a majority from IOC members to avoid being dropped from the list. If a sport is dropped, the IOC executive board will select a replacement from a list of the five applicants.

The sport recommended by the executive board to replace an outgoing sport would first need a two-thirds majority to become an "Olympic sport" and would then need a simple majority in a second vote to be admitted to the 2012 Games programme.

The last sport to be removed from the Olympic Games was polo in 1936.

In 2002 the IOC decided to cap the numbers of sports at an Olympic Games at 28, the number of events at 301 and the number of athletes at 10,500.

At that same session in Mexico City, three sports facing exclusion -- modern pentathlon, softball and baseball -- were given a reprieve when members resisted a proposal to drop them and add golf and rugby.

Rugby was last an Olympic sport in 1924, when the U.S. triumphed. The IRB believes its secret weapon to pave the way for a return is rugby sevens, which is more global than 15-a-side.

"The Rugby World Cup Sevens in March was probably the pinnacle of our presentation to the IOC on what we can deliver," said Egan.

"The fact that Fiji are world champions shows that smaller countries can potentially win a medal at the Olympic Games. It provides a great platform for countries to compete on the world stage.

"I'm not sure what the process will be from now until July but we have done all that the IOC have asked us to do."

Golf, which first featured as an Olympic sport at the 1900 Paris Games and for the second and last time four years later, also believes its own case has been made.

"Golf has put its bid in and replied to all subsequent questions and questionnaires," said Dawson.

"As far as I know, we have given the IOC programme staff all they need. It is now in the hands of the IOC as to what the outcome would be."

 

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