ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — The head of the IOC is urging the world’s top golfers to ditch the luxury hotels and “share the Olympic spirit” by staying in the athletes’ village when the sport returns to the Olympic program in 2016.
“Because if they don’t,” IOC President Thomas Bach said, “afterward, they will regret it.”
To prove his point, Bach recalled the case of the U.S. men’s basketball team — the so-called Dream Team — “renting whole floors of hotels” during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, instead of staying in the village.
“We don’t intend to make a whole lot of friends here,” U.S. point guard John Stockton said at the time. “The Olympic spirit is beating people, not living with them.”
Bach said that opinion was revised by the end.
“After the competition they made a tour through the Olympic Village,” said Bach, who was speaking at the British Open at St. Andrews on Saturday. “We asked them how they think about this, and they said it was a great tournament, that we would like to come back definitely for the next games, but we have one condition.
“We were already starting to sweat what this condition may be. And the condition was ‘we want to stay in the Olympic Village in the future’.”
One player who is set to miss out on golf’s return to the Olympics, after an absence of 112 years, is Tiger Woods.
The 14-time major champion has slumped to No. 241 in the rankings and is unlikely to qualify for the U.S. team, which will contain four players based on the current qualification criteria.
Woods, arguably the world’s most famous sportsperson, has more pulling power than any other golfer when it comes to TV ratings. Bach said it would be a “pity” not to have Woods in the field but that it “would in no way influence the quality of the Olympic tournament.”
Bach spoke to Woods at the skiing world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in February.
“He already said, ‘I would love to play and I will do everything to qualify, but I’m not sure whether it will work,'” Bach said. “Seeing what’s happening here, unfortunately maybe he was right, so I would really feel sorry for him.”
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