Golf and Rugby Sevens New Sports in Olympics [J. Mark English]
Golf and rugby sevens will become Olympic sports from 2016 after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to raise the number of sports from 26 to 28.
Both sports will become part of the programme in Rio de Janeiro and in 2020 and were approved despite some opposition which claimed the Olympics could not be viewed as the pinnacle of their respective sports. However, the International Rugby Board (IRB) has said it will scrap the Sevens World Cup to ensure the Olympics becomes the world's premier sevens event.
The golf event will consist of men's and women's 72-hole strokeplay competitions with 60 players in each field. The best 15 players in the world would qualify automatically for each draw, while existing golf tour schedules would be altered to avoid any clash with the Olympics.
Rugby had 81 votes in favour and eight against, and golf 63 in favour and 27 against. Seven sports had been considered for inclusion by the IOC, with squash, karate, softball, baseball and roller sports all rejected.
"Congratulations to both federations. We all look forward to great competition in 2016 and 2020," Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, said.
Padraig Harrington said he hoped the Olympic tournament would soon surpass the majors for golfers.
"I do believe in time the Olympic gold will become the most important event in golf and I don't believe it will take that long," he said. "In the four years between the Olympics there will be 16 majors, so winning gold will be that much more special."
Harrington admitted that golf's elitist image may have contributed to the 27 votes against. "I believe it was a stumbling block and could have caused some of those votes against us," he said.
"But being in the Olympics will help change - it has changed over the last 20 years, and 99 per cent of the professional players are not from elite backgrounds."