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Paul Lewis: Golf has no place at Olympics

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Australian golfer Adam Scott will not be competing in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Photo / Getty
Australian golfer Adam Scott will not be competing in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Photo / Getty

Poor old Dawn Fraser. Her pop at golfer Adam Scott for pulling out of the Rio Olympics exposes again the predilection a certain section of Australians have for tub-thumping patriotism with no room for, let's see ... rational thought?

"Well done, Adam, great to put your country on hold so that you can fulfil your own schedule," Fraser, the 78-year-old Australian swimming icon scornfully wrote on her Facebook page after Scott decided against playing in Rio. "How much money do you want in life? Not showing much for your country."

Fraser, no stranger to controversy, is a bit of a rent-a-quote these days but didn't take into account Scott's previous criticism of golf as an Olympic sport. One of Fraser's last forays into the media was when she'd had enough of the antics of bad boy tennis players Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon last year - and they do seem nasty pieces of work at times. But she lost the moral high ground when she told both to "go back to where their parents came from", a recommendation the players and their families were able to label "blatant racism" and for which Fraser later apologised.

Kyrgios was born in Australia, has a Greek father and a Malaysian mother - so his efforts to go where his parents came from might have induced some indecision at best and split personality at worst. Tomic was born in Germany of a Croatian dad and a Bosnian mum.

Fraser has form in this regard. In 1997, when trying to get back into politics (she was briefly Labour MP for Balmain), she said: "I wish I could be as outspoken, I suppose, as Pauline Hanson [the controversial far right, anti-multiculturalism politician] and say, 'look, I'm sick and tired of the immigrants that are coming into my country.'

But, look, enough of Dawnie and Aussies who don't like immigrants, Australian men who treat women poorly - often one and the same people and also those who tend to play the sanctimonious patriotism card. Like the Eskimos, who have plenty of words for 'snow' but not many for 'patio furniture', that kind of Aussie has many words for "unAustralian" but not for "free thinking".

Scott may have erred in making his withdrawal statement read like a politician speaking but saying nothing: "My decision has been taken as a result of an extremely busy playing schedule and other commitments, both personal and professional."

He might have done better not to bubble-wrap it. Last year he told it like it was, saying he wasn't overly concerned about Rio because it was only an exhibition: "Whether I win an Olympic medal or not is not going to define my career or change whether I've fulfilled my career. It's nothing I've ever aspired to do and I don't think I ever will. It's all about the four majors and I think that's the way it should stay for golf. To play an exhibition event down there ... in the middle of the majors season, I don't think any other athletes in their sport would do that."

Absolutely. Golf has no place in the Olympics; it is not the pinnacle of the sport. Same for tennis and football and - note to Dawn - the only reason those three sports are on the Olympic roster is the same money you are berating Scott about. Many Kiwis might feel differently; Lydia Ko and Danny Lee have a chance of medals but the fact is these will be weakened fields, thanks to a rankings system preventing many top players competing.

There is an argument for amateurs playing at the Olympics. Some pros support Olympic golf as they feel, in time, the gold medal will become golf's foremost achievement. Doubt it. For that to happen, 150 years of tradition and honour will have to be deflated in favour of an Olympic movement still recovering from the smell of corruption.

In Brazil, they have hacked a brand new golf course out of a nature reserve - as if Brazil isn't already losing enough vegetation with almost 6000 sq km of Amazon rain forest cut down last year. Then there's the Zika virus, the political crisis, doubts over visitor security in a country ranked high globally for homicides and violent crime, as well as water pollution.

IOC president Thomas Bach said last month even though Rio's polluted bay had not been cleaned up 100 per cent, it had reached 60 per cent - and would have been zero had it not been for the Olympics. Hardly the stuff legends are made of ...

I don't blame Scott one bit. He's inspired who knows how many young Aussies to take up his sport and he is the first and only Australian to win golf's greatest single prize - the Masters.

Fraser and her ilk should stay home, scowling at the immigrants and hopefully taking a lead from the other kind of Aussie - the self-deprecating wags who wrote the first line of the alternative national anthem ('Australians all, let us ring Joyce for she is young and free ... ') and who live in a country where anyone can be prime minister as long as they have a degree and are not black, Muslim nor gay.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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