During The Open Championship at St Andrews IOC President Thomas Bach and The R&A held a press conference about golf’s return to the Olympics in August 2016
President Bach, thank you for doing this for us. Why was it important for you and the IOC to bring back to the Olympic Games in 2016?
THOMAS BACH: Bringing golf back was an important step because the growing worldwide representation of golf, the attraction to viewer countries, you will see that in Rio we will most likely have among the 120 players, 60 plus 60, I guess we will have more than 40 different national Olympic committees, and this shows that golf is really spreading worldwide, and this was the major reason for the IOC to have golf on the Olympic programme.
We’ve been following the golf course design, the bidding process, the design, the construction for over four years now. What are your current feelings on the new venue and specifically Gil Hanse’s creation down there?
THOMAS BACH: What I’ve heard is very positive. I’m not the expert, so I ask the experts, and they all tell me that the players will love the course. This is most important. It is obviously a demanding course for Olympic standards. The landscape, the design, I think, is really fabulous, and we will see a great tournament on a really great golf course. It’s not only about the Olympic tournament, it’s also for the time after, and having with this Olympic golf course the first public golf course in Rio de Janeiro I think is another great legacy of this Olympic Games.
President Bach, I am assuming you have previous experience with tennis players, but how do you see this good amount of golfers coming to your Olympics that are used to flying in private jets, staying in private houses, adapting to the Olympic spirit and staying in the Olympic village?
THOMAS BACH: Well, let’s just see what happens. First of all, and this is most important, I’m very confident that we will have the best golf players of the world performing in Rio de Janeiro, and then we will see where they will stay. I can only advise them to stay in the Olympic Village, because if they don’t, afterwards they will regret it. We had an example with the ‘Dream Team’ in basketball in ’92. There the NBA players, they were coming and they were insisting of having a special hotel for them, renting whole floors of hotels, and then they were playing, and after the competition they made a tour through the Olympic Village. Then 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’. I can only advise them to stay there and to share this Olympic spirit in the Olympic Village. If they don’t do it the first time, I’m sure given this experience they will do it the second time.
Just to follow up, there’s an unusual thing in golf, too, you have the caddies going in the players during the competition. I’m assuming the caddies will stay at the Olympic Village, but what will be the treatment for the caddies?
THOMAS BACH: This is up to the International Golf Federation. I can only assure you that from the IOC’s perspective, all the participants will be treated well.
In your opinion, what must happen during the competition for the IOC to believe that it was the right decision to bring golf back into the games?
THOMAS BACH: To have a good competition among the best players of the world. This is it. 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. To have good sport among the best athletes of the world, of course it would help golf, and I think this is what the Olympic tournament is about for golf, to get good worldwide distribution and also of the rankings, because for golf and the International Federation, it’s a unique opportunity to promote golf on a real worldwide scale. There with this you will have golf in more than 200 countries in the world, in every country in the world. You will have billions of TV viewers, and therefore 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.
Just on that, would you perhaps review the type of competition that you have for golf in the Olympics, perhaps look at a match play competition? And are you satisfied with the drug testing protocols of golf to be a member of the Olympic family?
THOMAS BACH: Thank you for the question. The first part is we are evaluating all the sports, and now following our reform programme of Olympic Agenda 2020, not only every sport but every event, that means all the 320 events we have, now 308 events we have now in Rio de Janeiro, so event means medal event, they will all be evaluated individually after the Rio games, and then we will discuss with the relevant international federations, and if there is a proposal, if we think a match play could be more interesting, then the format we are going to have now, then we can still change for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. With regard to the anti-doping programme, it is clear that the athletes, they will have to accept the Olympic standards during the next year prior to the Games, and of course during the Games. That means, for instance, that during the Games the first five will be tested on top of the random testing and the targeted testing during the Olympic period. They all have to accept it. 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 have harmonised anti-doping regime there for all the golf players and that you have an equal level of playing field for all the golfers.
I was wondering, what does golf have to do to stay as part of the Olympic programme after 2020 in terms of what do you need to see for it to succeed?
THOMAS BACH: Well, it’s a little bit early to say. Give the golfers a chance, now two times. But it’s a little bit like with your colleague there before; it’s about having the best players of the world and the great competition, and then seeing and evaluating how attractive the golf tournament is on a worldwide scale. This will be the — I think a new experience for golf, to see how it does among all the other 28 sports in the Olympic programme, so not to be on a standalone basis anymore, but being in the middle of a multisport event and having to find its role. But I’m very sure that golf there will find its place.
Two questions to follow up on earlier. One in regards to the format. How much when you do your analysis after the games in Rio do you balance the competition versus the fan interest in regards to stroke play versus match play, and then secondly, if the PGA Tour doesn’t become fully WADA compliant at some point, could that actually put golf in jeopardy in the Olympics?
THOMAS BACH: With the first question, we have in the evaluation about – I think it’s about 70 different criteria on which the Games will be – the events will be evaluated, and there, fan interest across the globe is a major one. But the sporting quality and the players are the most important ones. The games are about the athletes, so you have to find a balance. If there should be a different interest, what I do not believe, because usually the athletes and the players prefer the most popular competition format because also they want to show their sport in a good light.
With regard to the second one, again, it’s too early to say whether we need the PGA compliance for Olympic standards. This will very much depend then also on WADA, because if WADA will tell us that the non-compliant test procedures of PGA would have a negative impact on the Olympic requirements, then of course we’d have to take this into consideration, again, to have a level playing field for all the players and for all the athletes.
As it stands, Tiger Woods is unlikely to be playing in Rio. Is that a blow to the IOC considering his pulling power and his fan interest, et cetera?
THOMAS BACH: Well, it’s a pity for himself. For the IOC, again, it’s about the best athletes, and there we are happy to welcome them, whoever qualifies. With Tiger Woods, I had the opportunity to speak with him earlier this year in the States when I met him at I think it was the skiing world championships, and I asked him about Rio and talked to him that I would like to welcome you next year to Rio, and then he already said, I would love to play, and I will do everything to qualify, but I’m not sure whether it will work. Seeing what’s happening here, unfortunately maybe he was right, so I would really feel sorry for him, but this would in no way influence the quality of the Olympic tournament.
Coming back to the WADA testing, if an organisation or country is not adhering to strict WADA, would those players become ineligible to compete, and with the WADA testing, will the golfers be under 24/7 like the athletics people and the tennis and that type of thing? And if there is a failed test — I’ll throw three questions at you. If there is a failed test, will those failed tests be known to the public?
THOMAS BACH: The answer to the last two questions is yes. They will have the same conditions like all the athletes. There will be random testing. There will be target testing. And again, the first five will be tested under any circumstances. The IOC rules apply there for all the Olympic athletes with equal standards. And the other question relates to the compliance of national Olympic committees with the WADA code, and there we are in the good position at this moment that all the NOCs are in compliance.
An Olympic gold medal is obviously the ultimate measurement of excellence and yet Tiger Woods said not so long ago that if you ask most golfers what they saw as most prestigious, it would be the Green Jacket or the Claret Jug. Is it not legitimate to ask that if Olympic gold doesn’t represent the pinnacle of achievement in your sport, then does it have its place in the Games at all?
THOMAS BACH: Let them make the experience and then ask the gold medallist after he has been standing on the podium listening to the anthem and being celebrated by the world, then he will give you the answer. He or she.
Do you think or is it important for golf to have a team competition for 2020?
THOMAS BACH: This is too early to say. Let’s have a good tournament now in Rio and then we will sit down with IGF and we’ll discuss all this then, after being in a position to really evaluate what happened in Rio. You also have to consider that the Olympic Games are — golf is hopefully important, but the Olympic Games are not only about golf, and before we add the new events, we also have to see how it’s going in the other sports because we cannot just increase and increase. With the Olympic Agenda 2020 we have set very clear limits with regard to the number of participants. We have also a rule which limits the number of events, and therefore then we’d have to see whether their additional events would fit into this overall programme of the Games, which is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There every piece has to fit to really make it as attractive as it is now.
MALCOLM BOOTH (R&A): President Bach, thank you very much for coming in and joining us. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.
THOMAS BACH: Thank you.
Addendum to IOC Press Conference Saturday, July 18, 2015
The IGF has issued the following statement as an addendum to Thomas Bach’s press conference at The Open, St Andrews on Saturday 18 July 2015.
Olympic Golf will operate under the International Golf Federation’s (IGF) anti-doping policy which is WADA compliant. This will come into effect 13 weeks out from the Olympic Games in Rio. From 6 May 2016 through to the conclusion of the Olympic Games there will be a registered testing pool, created and managed by the IGF, and male and female golfing athletes will be subject to both urine and blood tests for substances on the WADA prohibited list
The above is based upon FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports