Olympic Games: Atlanta tee-off put on hold

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The Independent Online
ATLANTA'S Olympic organisers have asked that golf be added as a full medal sport for the next Summer Games, with the competition taking place at Augusta National Golf Club, site of the US Masters each spring. They envisage a 72- hole strokeplay competition - for men and women - but no decision will be taken by the International Olympic Committee before December.

'Golf is certainly a sport we would like to see in the Olympics but 90 per cent of the best players come from one or two countries and there would have to be a limit for each country,' Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president, said yesterday. 'But it's a complicated issue because we do not have any single controlling body to negotiate with. You have a PGA in the United States, Europe and Asia.'

Golf has not been played in Olympic competition since the St Louis Games of 1904, when only men competed. However, four years earlier in the Paris Games, golf was the first Olympic event in which women competed - the first gold medal being won by an American, Margaret Abbot, of Chicago.

With a limited number of places available, rankings are likely to be all important. Nick Faldo, the Open champion who is top of the Order of Merit in Europe, has already said he would like to play in any Olympic tournament.

However, Samaranch could not say how players would be selected if golf was introduced. Tennis, which uses rankings and ignores winners of the major tournaments, is limited to three players per country.

The IOC wants to improve the quality of football at the Atlanta Games by persuading Fifa to allow players of the calibre of Marco van Basten, who is 28, to play. Currently there is an age limit of 23 for the Olympics. Moves are also being made to permit professional cyclists like Miguel Indurain, the double Tour de France winner, to compete in Atlanta.