‘Golfers skip because no money involved, not because of Zika virus’

Rio De Janeiro : The head of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics says the world’s top four male golfers have withdrawn from the games because there is no money to be won — not because of the Zika virus.

“They tried to blame Zika, but the media have shown that they are not coming because there’s no prize money,” Rio organizing committee President Carlos Nuzman said on Saturday, speaking with the games set to open in just under three weeks.

Jordan Spieth withdrew this week from the Olympics, citing Zika. He joined Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Rory McIlroy in also saying Zika was the main reason for skipping the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years.

Their absence could be a setback for golf’s future in the Olympics. IOC President Thomas Bach has said that golf’s future may rest on its ability to get top players to show up. Golf is guaranteed a spot in the Tokyo Olympics in four years, but could be vulnerable after that.

“Zika is much worse in Florida than in Brazil, and golfers are playing in Florida,” Nuzman said. Male golfers have also cited security worries, and some have complained that Olympic golf has been wedged into an already crowded tour schedule.

Rio has myriad Olympic problems: Zika, security concerns, severe water pollution and sluggish ticket sales.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes warned in the wake of the attack Thursday in Nice, France, that fans in Rio could face more checks, more roadblocks and more delays. “Probably the security forces are going to demand more blockades, more inconvenient things,” Paes said.

Nuzman, speaking at a debate sponsored by a local magazine, seemed to be bracing for small crowds at some Olympic venues. Organizers says about 70 percent of tickets have been sold.

“I don’t think we need too much public,” he said, adding that smaller venues could save money.

“Television does an extraordinary job, with cameras everywhere,” he added. “Nobody can walk a step without a camera filming it.”

Nuzman also said he expected Rio’s suspended drug-testing lab to be ready when the games open Aug. 5. He expected the World Anti-Doping Agency to give its approval in a few days.

The suspension has been an embarrassment for local organizers and a headache for the International Olympic Committee, which could be forced to send blood and urine samples abroad for testing if the lab remains closed.

Meanwhile. The International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) actions suggest the organisation had got orders from “somebody” not to allow  any Russians at any cost at the Rio Olympics, two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbaeva said on Sunday.

The IAAF earlier rejected applications from all Russian athletes for participation in international competitions, including the Rio Olympic Games starting on August 5, except for long jump athlete Darya Klishina, who is trained outside Russia, reports Tass.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, had received a filed lawsuit from the Russian Olympic Committee against IAAF in defence of 68 national track and field athletes wishing to participate in the 2016 Summer Games. The hearings are due July 19, and the verdict will be announced no later than July 21.

“Athletes from other countries count days to opening of the Olympic Games, while we — to decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Where the global athletics is going to, and when will this all be over. Nobody replies,” Isinbaeva wrote on Instagram.

“For the first time, over the 20-years’ career in sports, I have to confirm in the court the right to participate in the Games,” the 34-year-old added.

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