Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Zika Scaring Away Top Talent

Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Zika Scaring Away Top Talent

Article excerpt

After last appearing in the 1904 Olympic Games in Saint Louis, the sport of golf is finally scheduled to return to the world's most famous sporting event this summer in Rio de Janeiro. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided in 2009 during its 121st session that golf would be reintroduced to the sporting spectacle. In addition, the IOC confirmed that rugby would also be making its return, while kitesurfing is set to debut as an Olympic sport. A brand new Olympic golf course was built for the event within the Marapendi Natural Reserve in the West Zone of Rio. However, what was planned as a glorious homecoming is now coming apart due to heightened concerns with Zika virus, causing many of the world's top players to skip the Games.

While the Rio and state governments, international organizations like the World Health Organization, and the IOC have continually emphasized that there is a very small chance of contracting Zika in Rio, their efforts have failed to stop the unease abo ut the virus from tainting golf's Olympic homecoming. Among the 12 players refusing to be selected for the competition are: World Number 1 Jason Day (Australia), No. 4 Rory Mcllroy (Northern Ireland), No. 10 Branden Grace (South Africa), Women's No. 37 Lee-Anne Pace (South Africa), No. 14 Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), No. 13 Hideki Matsuyama (Japan), and No. 8 Adam Scott (Australia). In addition, many players have refused to confirm that they will be attending the Olympic Games. Just recently, American all-star Jordan Spieth (No. 3) has decided to not attend the Games either. Of the four United States golfers that have qualified for the tournament, only one, Bubba Watson, has said that he will be at the event no matter what. Rickie Fowler (No. 7) has said that they he is unsure and is going to continue to assess the situation to see if it is truly in his best interests to attend the Games. With many of the world's top talent no longer coming to golf's Olympic homecoming, the integrity of the sport is being called into question. Barry Maister, a member of the IOC, spoke to a New Zealand radio sports talk show and expressed his displeasure over the golf situation, stating, "I think it is appalling...I don't think the sport should be allowed to continue in the Games under that scenario". …

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