Golf, rugby welcomed back to Olympic stage

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Tom Ecker, correspondent

Editor’s note: Tom Ecker of Cedar Rapids is an Olympic historian. 

Often, new Olympic sports are introduced by the host nation, but this is the first time in my memory that Olympic sports from the past have been “revived.”

The oldest of the revived Olympic sports is golf, which made its first and last appearance at the 1904 Games in St. Louis. But the 1904 Olympics, which lasted for seven months, were so disorganized that no one was sure which events were “Olympic” and which were not.

The International Olympic Committee announced in 1904 that all 85 sports contested there were Olympic events, including handicap races, YMCA championships, professional events, and even elementary school and high school competitions open only to students from Missouri.

But the IOC later said that many of the sports were not really official Olympic sports. We know that golf matches were played during those seven months, but experts are in disagreement as to whether they were considered official or not. So, golf may be a new Olympic sport, not a revived one.

The other revived sport is rugby, which last appeared at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. That year, an unheralded team from the United States pulled off the upset of the Games over several British Empire teams which had dominated the sport of rugby for many years.

The revived rugby games of today don’t look much like the games that were played in 1924. There are now only seven players per team, instead of the traditional 15, making it a much faster and much less predictable game.

But not less predictable than golf.

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