By Graham Otway
Sergio García believes that the game’s top stars should throw themselves into the Olympic spirit when the sport returns to the Games in August after a 112-year absence.
Adam Scott sparked controversy by saying that he did not want to represent Australia in Rio de Janeiro because it would not fit into his schedule that concentrates on his preparation for the Majors.
And there have been persistent rumours that some of the biggest American names are going to hire mansions for the Games rather than stay with athletes from other sports in the Olympic Village.
But García, 15th in the world rankings, cannot believe that he is going to fulfil his dreams of making an Olympic debut at the ripe old age of 36 when most other sportsmen are close to retirement.
“I am going to suck all the Olympics up. I want to go and take part in the opening ceremony,” said the Spaniard.
“And I want to enjoy everything, like staying in the Olympic Village, going to see some of the other events. I want to be like a sponge and make sure I get the full Olympic experience.
“It could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it’s going to be a great possibility that I will meet some of the athletes that I have been watching on TV for a long time.
“None of us golfers have been Olympians before. I can’t speak for anybody else but I think we must all try to enjoy the Olympic experience.”
His views were echoed by golfing legend José María Olazábal, who was invited to captain the Spanish Olympic team which currently looks likely to be García and Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
A health issue with his back has forced him to hand over that job to Manuel Pinero and he really regrets that he will not be in Rio.
“I spoke to Rafa Nadal about playing tennis at the Olympics and he told me the experience is completely unique,” said Olazábal.
“And if you have that opportunity you have got to go and make the best of it. And I think that most golfers will jump at the opportunity to experience it.”
García and Olazábal were talking at a special meeting in Spain on Monday attended by Olympic captains from Sweden, Germany and Italy and presided over by former European Tour chief executive George O’Grady, who is part of the Olympic golf organisation.
And O’Grady underlined the importance of the world’s best golfers fitting smoothly into the Olympic spirit because the sport will be on trial in Brazil.
He revealed that it was during the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama that he and Seve Ballesteros first raised the issue of golf returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 with Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was then president of the International Olympic Committee.
He expressed doubt that the top players would want to join the hunt for gold medals and the sport’s return to the schedule 19 years after that meeting will be reviewed after Rio to decide whether golf should also have a part in the Games in Japan in 2020.
And Olazábal stressed the need for players like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day to fit smoothly into the global Olympic image.
“It’s been a long journey to get the Olympics to take golf under their wings and Rio is now going to be huge for the game,” he said.
“It’s going to make it possible to reach a new, younger generation of golfers in countries where golf has not been that popular in the past.
“In the Olympics, golf will enter the start of a new era. It will create a new image for the sport and we will see the benefits all around the world in 20 years’ time, when those youngsters grow up.”
Tagged Sergio Garcia