It’s not as though it was any big surprise. This plan had been in the making for some time, but following the stress and strain caused by golf’s return to the Olympics last year there is something to be said for turnkey venues.
Although the Olympic Golf Course has emerged as a rare beacon of hope from last year’s Rio Games, for those who endured years of delays and constructions concerns it was not an ideal situation.
The anxiety caused by having to start from scratch in Rio for golf’s return to the Games was just part of bigger-picture concerns that led to many of the game’s top players passing on a trip to the ’16 Olympics, but on Wednesday the executive board of the International Olympic Committee made sure that’s not an issue for the foreseeable future.
The executive board officially announced that Paris will host the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles will get the ’28 Olympics.
Both cities originally bid on the ’24 Games, but were considered such leading candidates they agreed to alter hosting duties in ’24 and ’28. It was a win-win for the IOC and for golf.
While golf needs to officially be approved past the 2020 Games, which should happen this week, the venue for the ’24 Games would be Le Golf National, the venue for next year’s Ryder Cup and a regular stop on the European Tour, and Riviera Country Club, the annual site of the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open since 1929, in 2028.
There will be no scrambling to create something from nothing, like Rio architect Gil Hanse and Co. did in Rio. No worries over whether the game’s best will find a suitable test or how the competition will show to the world – just fine-tuning.
It’s a comfort that Antony Scanlon, the executive director of the International Golf Federation, couldn’t hide during a recent interview.
“A good test event next year,” joked Scanlon, referring to Le Golf National and the ’17 Ryder Cup. “Every year after that with the French Open we will try to improve on it.”
If golf is approved for the ’24 Games and beyond, which officials are confident will happen, Riviera is considered one of the game’s best courses and annually draws one of the Tour’s best fields.
This may seem like a small portion of the Olympic puzzle for Scanlon, but given how trying the ’16 and ’20 Games have been logistically it’s a genuine reason for organizers to celebrate.
Although the Rio course was completed on time for last year’s Olympics, and by all accounts proved to be a successful venue despite countless construction delays, protests and legal wrangling, it was a distraction that golf would have gladly done without.
Even the 2020 venue in Tokyo hasn’t exactly been a home run. Following weeks of criticism for not allowing females members, Kasumigaseki Country Club, the venue for the ’20 Games, voted in March to reverse its policy and allow women to join the club.
This change of heart came after the IOC made it clear it would have no trouble finding another venue if the policy remained in place.
The Paris and Los Angeles venues will have no such issues. Both are established clubs with close ties to the game’s leading organizations, like the PGA and European tours.
The courses also have a proven track record, with Riviera regularly voted as one of the Tour’s best venues by players and Le Golf National among the Continent’s most popular stops.
While Rio was a unique success story, for vastly different reasons, consider the game’s best going head-to-head on a course in Versailles just minutes outside of Paris’ city center, or at Riviera, which is wedged between San Vicente Road and Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood (In a related note to 2028 athletes: traffic could be an issue).
It’s always the play on the field that makes a competition special, but having fields with established reputations and proven logistics can only enhance an event that exceeded many expectations in ’16.
For all the issues faced by organizers last year in Rio, there were advantages to golf returning to the Games in South America, the primary benefit being able to introduce a country with very little golf history to the game on such an important stage.
But all things considered, Scanlon will gladly embrace a little less uncertainty for future competitions.