Roger Federer and Martina Hingis have confirmed a mixed doubles ‘dream team’ at Rio 2016, while Jordan Spieth is treating golf’s inaugural event as a fifth Major. But does the inclusion of those sports actually devalue the Olympics?
It’s official: Roger Federer and Martina Hingis will team up at Rio 2016. Two stalwarts of an outgoing tennis generation clubbed together for a fitting swansong.Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth is gearing up for golf’s return to the Olympic programme – with the world number one insisting he will treat it as a fifth Major – and Brazil is preparing to welcome an army of fledgling football talent.Surely these are promising developments, right..?Not one bit.When tennis, golf and football’s finest talent reach the twilight of their careers, are they really reflecting on their Olympic journey – basking in the glory of a gold medal, or ruing the absence of one? Of course not.
The Olympics shouldn’t be about bolstering the medal cabinets of the established elite. Neither should it become an exhibition. It’s the culmination of a four-year journey, where athletes sacrifice everything to contest a spot atop the rostrum.It’s partly why the 100m final garners so much attention. Eight athletes assemble on the startline, subduing inner demons to remain fiercely positive, knowing a split second can be the difference between first and fourth. It truly matters, because there is no chance to salvage it for four years. The usually apathetic unites with the sporting connoisseur to cram around the TV and it all comes down to one simple question: who is better on that day.
A beer bottle bounces on the track as competitors in the men’s 100 metres final start off the blocks at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Reuters) – ReutersTrue, we’re familiar with big names from the worlds of athletics, swimming and cycling, but the Olympics is the pinnacle for those sports. Fail, and your legacy is tainted. Paula Radcliffe has run three minutes faster than any other woman in marathon history, a truly staggering feat. But she never achieved her Olympic dream – and that matters when it comes to ranking the true sporting greats.You can’t say the same about Federer, Spieth and the ensemble of footballers. If the Swiss maestro triumphs in Rio, he will still be referred to as a 17-time Grand Slam winner. And so he should. In tennis, even just one Slam eclipses an Olympic gold. It’s the barometer of success.Three-time golf Major winner Nick Price recently told the BBC: “Does the Olympics need golf? Yes, I think so. Does golf need the Olympics? I’m not sure.”He’s so, so wrong. A sport where conditions and course type often makes the roll of honour a revolving carousel has no Olympic significance.
Jordan Spieth – AFPYes, there are obviously fans and athletes who would love to see these sports remain on the Olympic programme. But they at least need a revamp to differentiate them for the stream of other tournaments. A Davis Cup-style setup would be far more appealing in tennis, while golf could introduce a fourball or foursomes format. But football? A predominantly youth competition on supposedly the grandest stage, where teams can only select three players aged over 23. It begs the question: what’s the point?[THE PODIUM: Do skateboarding, climbing and others belong at the Olympics?]Ultimately, it comes down to two factors: how close are the sports to the original Olympic motto – Citius Altius, Fortius (translating as swifter, higher, stronger) – and is the event the pinnacle?Golf, tennis and football score zero on both counts. It simply doesn’t matter if the competitors take it seriously, it devalues the whole event.So when Rio rolls around and lesser-known athletes are spotted craning for selfies with the established elite, the Olympics will lose a chink of credibility. It’s about the coronation of obscure athletes; not another chance to roar on mainstream stars in a competition that will soon be forgotten.