Brian Viner: Bunkers lie in wait for golfers and politicians

The Last Word

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The Independent Online

Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, Ron Atkinson, Andy Gray and Richard Keys are unlikely bedfellows, but they could certainly compare some lively notes about the inconvenient tendency of microphones to be switched on when you think they're switched off, or have forgotten that you're even wearing the damn things.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Rochdale grandmother Gillian Duffy, Marcel Desailly and assistant referee Sian Massey are even less likely bedfellows, but as the targets of unexpectedly amplified jibes they too could form a club. The gaffers and the gaffees, another example of sport and politics embracing one another.

Nobody says any more that sport and politics don't or shouldn't mix. It was a platitude regularly aired 20 or 30 years ago, since when it has rightly had the life squeezed out of it. Political posturing and chicanery find their way into every crevice of sport, always have and always will. For Adolf Hitler, the 1936 Olympic Games offered the perfect opportunity to strut on the world stage, and during the Cold War, the Eastern Bloc countries used sport to demonstrate physically what they couldn't economically or socially, that Communism was bigger, better, stronger, faster (and in the case of those female East German swimmers, hairier), than capitalism.

In Britain, less egregiously but no less blatantly, politicians constantly try to syphon off for themselves some of sport's colossal popularity, from Harold Wilson quipping that England only wins the World Cup under a Labour government, to Tony Blair playing keepy-uppy with Kevin Keegan, to David Cameron getting shirty with Fifa over the poppy business this week, neatly managing to turn football politics into a political football. Which brings me to sporting metaphors. How impoverished the vocabulary of politics would be without knockout blows, curveballs, open goals, level playing fields, sticky wickets.

There aren't many examples of the same phenomenon in reverse, alas, although I have heard some golfers referring to a bad lie as "a Nixon", and on the subject of golfers, and political leaders, it has been my pleasure three times down the years to interview Gary Player, who never fails to drop into the conversation his laughable but fiercely held conviction that many of the world's problems would be solved if only its squabbling statesmen played golf, with its inherent virtues of integrity, decency and humility. Richard Downey, the Archbishop of Liverpool 60 years ago, once similarly ventured that "if Stalin had learnt to play cricket, the world might now be a better place". But I suspect he was joking, unlike Player, who might currently be finding it just a little harder to hold up golf as a crucible of sporting righteousness.

It is now just over a week since Adam Scott's hapless Kiwi caddie Steve Williams blundered into the same company as Obama, Sarkozy, Brown, Atkinson, Gray and Keys, except that he knew his microphone was on when in a Shanghai hotel he uttered the words "black arsehole" in connection with his former employer Tiger Woods. He just assumed, with breathtaking naivety, that his comments would stay private.

Instead, there has been an eruption of sound and fury, laced with more than a little schadenfreude. Williams won no new friends in the golfing world, indeed lost some of the few he already had, when he reacted with spluttering pomposity to being sacked by Woods in the summer. Preposterously, he seemed to regard all those major championship wins as his no less than Tiger's, and then emphasised the message when, speaking of Scott's victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, he described himself – himself! – as "a very confident front-runner".

In short, Williams is a jerk. But should Scott have sacked him or the golfing authorities banished him, as plenty have suggested, for an offensive comment not intended for wider consumption that only a roomful of people actually heard? I don't think so, although I'm equally uneasy with Greg Norman's curious defence of the wretched caddie that there would have been many worse remarks uttered in that room that night. It might just be that Player could not be more wrong about golf. It might also be that politicians should be a little more circumspect about rubbing up against sportsmen; there's always a danger that it could make them look even grubbier.

Let squash squeeze into 2020 Games

Here's a good pub quiz question: what do the following have in common – baseball, softball, karate, roller sports, sports climbing, wakeboarding, wushu (a martial art) and squash? The answer is that they are all competing with each other for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games.

Of those eight sports, plus one more that will be ejected from the 2012 Games and added to the shortlist, one will be chosen for 2020 and my own fervent hope is that it will be squash, which is played by around 20 million people in 185 countries and perfectly meets The Last Word's main requirement for Olympic status, if regrettably not the IOC's, which is that an Olympic gold medal should constitute that sport's pinnacle of achievement.

That is transparently not so of rugby union and golf, both of which pipped squash in pursuit of a place in the 2016 Games in Rio, but in London on Monday I sat in on the World Squash Federation's 2020 campaign launch, and I'm pleased to report that they have addressed the areas in which they were deemed to have fallen short last time, not only by making the sport much more televisual but also indulging the IOC's John F Kennedy complex, by showing not how the Olympic Games can help squash, but how squash can help the Olympic Games.