Do football, golf and tennis really deserve a place at the Olympics?

Football is after all an Olympic sport, with matches being played at venues around the country.

Graham Ruthven
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For the next month it might not seem so, but make no mistake Brazil is a football country. The South American nation is the spiritual homeland of the modern game, of some of the sport’s brightest and best. Olympians will be welcomed to Rio de Janeiro for this month’s games in the city, but footballers are still revered above all else.

Although Brazil won’t have to choose between the two. Football is after all an Olympic sport, with matches being played at venues around the country. In fact, on the basis of ticket sales, football is the biggest of all the Olympic sports. But does football really warrant a place at the games?


Of course, football already has the World Cup to showcase itself on the global stage, with Brazil hosting that event just two years ago. Football doesn’t really need the Olympics, so do the Olympics really need football? If the event is about representing the pinnacle of sporting achievement, football doesn’t belong there.

What’s more, the Olympics are generally shunned by the football world as a secondary competition. Neymar is essentially the only genuine superstar who will make an appearance at Rio 2016 this summer with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo all giving the tournament a miss for the sake of their preparations for the new club season.

Football is just one of a number of sports that’s place at the Olympics comes under scrutiny. This year’s games will be the first since 1904 that will include golf, although the Olympic golf tournament this summer will be missing some of the sport’s biggest names. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy won’t be there, for instance.

No ranking points on offer

Tennis’ place as an Olympic sport is also questioned, even taking into accounts its history as a traditional sport at the games. No ranking points are on offer for the winners of the tennis tournaments at the games, with some of the biggest names in the sport skipping a jaunt to Brazil this summer. The Olympics just don’t register on the record of Grand Slams and Masters events.

Some of the sport’s biggest names have picked up gold medals at recent games, with Andy Murray topping the podium at London 2012. Tennis at the Olympics has started to garner some prestige over the past decade or so, but even still, its place as part of sport’s biggest spectacle should be placed under scrutiny.

Perhaps its time the Olympics were calibrated. The event has become overly bloated, with the stress and strain placed on host cities now too much for most to handle. Hosting costs are spiralling out of control as the benefits of welcoming the Olympic world to the shores of your homeland become more and more doubtful.

Quite simply, there are too many sports at the Olympic games. Such a wide variance of events and disciplines has served to only muddle and confuse what is sport’s greatest and most compelling spectacle. In Rio de Janeiro this summer 28 different sports will be played, with a total of 41 disciplines and 306 events. It’s too much. Sports like football, gold and tennis should be cut.

These sports compromise the true spirit of the Olympic games. The event is billed as the peak of sporting achievement and yet for those who will play football, tennis or golf at Rio 2016 this summer that is not the case. The Olympics should be more than a peripheral event and so they should cut anything that crosses that reputation.

The Olympics should be about track and field and swimming and all the events that for the four years in between don’t receive mainstream coverage or reverence. That is the inherent appeal of the games, but sports like football, golf and tennis go against the grain of that. An Olympic sport should be a sport that peaks at the Olympics.

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