Golf and rugby turn back clock in re-entering the Olympics

From the US team that won in a bloody battle to a Canadian who walked on his hands, Simon Turnbull discovers that the sports granted entry for 2016 have a rich history

In the end, when it came to the crunch of a vote by the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen yesterday, it was a walkover for Rugby Sevens.

With 81 votes for and nine against, the truncated version of the oval-balled game gained admittance to the Olympic schedule for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro in the fashion of Jonah Lomu trampling all over poor Tony Underwood in that World Cup semi-final of 1995.

As it happened, the former All Black wing of outhouse dimensions was in the Danish capital as part of the International Rugby Board team pressing the case for his sport. "I am joyous and ecstatic," the 34-year-old – soon to attempt a comeback with Marseilles – said. "It's great to see the future of rugby will be on the biggest stage of all."

Golf made it too, by a vote of 63-27, with Padraig Harrington and Michelle Wie in attendance, and Tiger Woods lending his support via video. It would have been rather fitting if Dame Shirley Bassey had been present, too. For the summer Olympics, it's all just a little bit of history repeating. Golf and rugby union have both been in the great five-ringed sporting circus before.

The reigning Olympic rugby champions, anyone? Why, the mighty U.S. of A, of course. They have reigned supreme – or rather, supremely unchallenged – since 18 May 1924. Their band of unlikely lads overwhelmed France 17-3 in the final that day, five tries to one, provoking a riot at Stade Colombes, the Parisian stadium where Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell (a prolific try-scoring wing three-quarter for Scotland) rode their chariots of fire to Olympic track glory.

There was bad political blood between the countries at the time, and the difficulty encountered by the United States team when attempting to enter the country helped to stir the ill feeling that led to a brutal affair. Babe Slater, the farmer who captained the US XV, feared for the lives of his players, who had to be escorted from the pitch under police protection. Several American spectators were beaten unconscious and the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" was drowned out by jeers at the victory ceremony.

Pierre de Coubertin, the French baron who founded the modern Olympic movement, was among the 40,000 crowd that day and, as president of the International Olympic Committee, was influential in rugby's removal from the Games programme. The sport returned to the fold yesterday with a message of welcome from the current IOC president Jacque Rogge. "Time will show our decision was wise," said the three-time Olympic yachtsman, and former Belgian rugby union international.

Technically speaking, the holder of the Olympic golf title is a colourful Canadian by the name of George Lyon, although sadly he will not be in Rio to defend his crown. He died in 1937.

Lyon triumphed in St Louis in 1904, at the age of 46. He had not picked up a golf club until he was 38 and his swing was so rugged he was described as "a coal hewer". In fact, he had been better accustomed to swinging a bat as a cricketer of note in his homeland. He was also the Canadian record holder in the pole vault.

Lyon caused quite a stir in St Louis, beating Chandler Egan, the 23-year-old US amateur champion, in the final and walking on his hands to collect his prize. The clowning Canadian could have collected another gold four years later but declined it out of respect for the game.

Lyon made the trip to London for the 1908 Games, only to find himself the sole entrant when the British players withdrew because of a clash with long-established domestic fixtures. Lyon was offered the gold medal by default but declined to accept it.

Still, he has his place in Olympic history. So does Constantin Henriquez de Zubiera, who played in the French team who won the first Olympic rugby title in Paris in 1900, beating a Great Britain side represented by Moseley Wanderers 27-8 in the final. He was the first black athlete to compete in the Olympic Games – and also won a silver medal in the tug-of-war.

Sadly for Britain, tug-of-war has been off the Olympic agenda since 1920. They were the last winners of the event in Antwerp that year. They also happen to be the last Olympic cricket champions. A Great Britain team otherwise known as the Devon and Somerset Wanderers beaten a "French" XI comprising workers from the local British Embassy in Paris in 1900. "Cricket is a sport which appears monotonous and without colour to the uninitiated," a French newspaper sniffed disapprovingly at the time.

Rugby and golf have been accepted for the next two Games, but subject to a review after Rio in 2016. There is still a chance for Twenty20 to sneak cricket into the 2020 Olympics.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
Pistorius leaves Pretoria High Court to be taken to prison
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album