Adam Scott
Adam Scott of Australia

Golf is returning to the Olympic stage in 2016, the first time since the third Olympics in 1904.

And yet, some big names in the game are declining their invitations: 3-time majors winner Vijay Singh of Fiji, World # 7 Adam Scott of Australia, and World #12 Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.

And it’s possible they won’t be the only ones. While Singh cited fear over contracting the zika virus in Brazil, Scott explained that adding the Olympics to the already congested PGA Tour will make for an exhausting schedule. According to this article, “the PGA Tour has had to cram the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, British Open and PGA Championship into a five-week window because of the Olympics. And, two weeks after the Olympics end, the FedEx Cup playoffs begin. Two weeks after those are done, the Ryder Cup will be contested.”

In other words, ensuring they are in top condition for the tournaments that count are key to many of the top pro golfers.

Professional ice hockey players, perhaps many of them, may be having an opposite reaction. Ice hockey has been an Olympic sport since 1920, and countries like the United States, the Soviet Union and former members of that nation, and Canada have had epic battles in the Olympic Games over the decades.

Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin at the Sochi Olympics

Professional ice hockey players, particularly those from the National Hockey League, were allowed to represent their national teams at the Olympics, starting from the Nagano Winter Games in 1998. But because the NHL and the owners of the team were worried about disruption to the NHL schedule as well as injuries, it was decided that the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) would foot the bill for transportation and insurance costs. For the Sochi Games in 2014, that was a combined USD$32 million!

The IOC, which provided USD$14 million of that bill for Sochi, just announced that they would not pay those costs to ensure the participation of NHL players at the PyeongChang Winter Games in 2018. Said Rene Fasel, president of the IIHF in this sportsnet article, “Our wish is to have the best players. [But the IOC] not covering the cost as they did at the last five Olympic Games puts us in a difficult financial situation.”

Immediately after this announcement, one of the NHL’s biggest stars, Alex Ovechkin, announced that he would join his Russian National Team for the PyeongChang Olympics regardless of the NHL’s decision. It’s likely that many of his colleagues in the NHL will have similar feelings.

Why the difference in reaction towards the Olympics? I’d have to speculate. But here are a couple of possible reasons:

  1. History: ice hockey and the Olympics have a long and emotional history. The Olympics are considered the pinnacle of achievement for many ice hockey players, even beyond the NHL Stanley Cup championship. Golf has practically no history in the Olympics.
  2. Rigors/Value of the Schedule: The Olympics happen at the time in the NHL schedule where teams are jockeying for playoff spots. But since the NHL controls the schedule, they can suspend the schedule for all teams, which makes it an even playing field for all teams. In the professional golf tour, as has been true with the professional tennis tour, those individuals who participate in the Olympics may lose out on opportunities to play in tournaments that will be more lucrative and perhaps perceived to be more important. When tennis returned to the Olympics in 1984, many of the best players did not compete.
Advertisements

chicago blackhawks 2015 stanley cup champions

THREE – Chicago Black Hawks and Nine Olympians Take the Stanley Cup: The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4 games to 2 for their sixth NHL championship. On that Chicago team were Kimmo Timonen whose long and distinguished career included bronze and silver medals for Team Finland in 1998, 2006, 2010, 2014; Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith who won gold for Team Canada in 2010 and 2014 in Sochi, along with fellow Canadians Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook who won gold medal in 2014; Patrick Kane who won silver on the USA team in 2010; Johnny Oduya, Marcus Kruger, Niklas Hjalmarsson who won silver on the Swedish team in Sochi in 2014; Brad Richards Canada: who competed for Team Canada in 2006; and Marian Hossa of Slovakia who competed in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

Platini and Blatter

TWO – FIFA Scandal and Ban: The FIFA Ethics Committee banned FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA head and FIFA heir apparent Michel Platini from all football-related activities for eight years, sparking hopes of greater transparency and an end to corruption and bribes which impact FIFA decisions. For a brilliant explanation of the scandal by John Oliver, all the way back in June, 2014, watch this video.

 

Russia Track Banned.jpg

ONE – Russia Track and Field Team Banned: After it was revealed that Russian athletes were illegally doping thanks to a state-run program, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decides in November to suspend the All-Russia Athletic Federation, essentially all Russian track and field athletes, from participating in international competitions, including the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics. Here is the documentary that sparked the investigation.

See this link for 13 through 15, 10 through 12, 7 through 9, and 4 through 6.