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Olympic Golf? 2008 May Be Year of Tiger at Games
by Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Tiger Woods, Olympic golf champion?

You can see it now. It is 2008. Woods has won everything there is to win in golf. He has more green jackets than a St. Patrick's Day parade.

But Woods finally will get that chance, too, as golf debuts as an Olympic sport. And in Beijing, no less, perhaps the most anticipated Games ever for its role in opening China to the rest of the world.

Far-fetched? Not at all.

The International Olympic Committee acknowledged here Wednesday that a Europe-based sports federation, the World Amateur Golf Council, has petitioned to have golf added to the 2008 Summer Games.

Think of the marketing possibilities.

Actually, you don't have to. Because that occupies most waking hours for IOC Marketing Director Michael Payne and his colleague Richard Pound, the man who could be IOC king in 2008.

Prospects of linking perhaps the most famous athlete in the world today, the planet's most populous country and its most widely viewed event -- the Olympics -- must fill their minds with sounds of ringing cash registers.

Especially since Woods is such a wholesome champion, just the kind of guy Olympic marketers could embrace as they sell their product to the corporate sponsors who underwrite the Games.

Even without Greg Norman getting to play in his homeland Down Under, Pound noted in a just-released marketing report that "The Sydney 2000 Games set a course for the future of the Olympic Movement at the dawn of the new millennium. Sydney 2000, the greatest Olympics in history, stands now in our collective memory as a tribute to the most successful marketing effort that the world has ever seen."

But the world has not yet seen Tiger in Beijing.

Golfers have tried for years to get into the Olympics. They took a shot at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, but were turned back. Same for Sydney and the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

But 2008 could be a different story. IOC Sports Director Gilbert Felli said the organization will take a look this fall at whether new sports can be added to the 2008 program. While Olympic officials are worried about "gigantism" in the Summer Games, knowing that organizing committees already are overtaxed in catering to the 10,500 or so athletes allowed into an Olympics now, Felli noted that the ceiling could be maintained with a few trims elsewhere.

Perhaps synchronized swimming. Or rhythmic gymnastics. Could anyone say, with a straight face, that either of those "sports" have a wider or more legitimate following than golf, especially with its growing popularity in Europe.

The key could be how well the golfing community gets its act together. Felli said the U.S. Professional Golfers Association is not yet fully supportive of the World Amateur Golf Council's proposal. But the PGA is talking to the council and to the IOC.

And when a Tiger is looming in the background, people listen.


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