Antony Scanlon is the new executive director of the International Golf Federation, the sport’s governing body for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The IGF coordinated the successful bid last year to the International Olympic Committee for golf’s inclusion after its 112-year absence.
Scanlon, an Australian, has been involved with the Olympics since 1998 and will be responsible for handling the day-to-day administration of the IGF in Olympic matters, including Rio’s golf venue selection.
Scanlon recently spoke with Golfweek about his new role and golf’s place in the Summer Games.
What are the top priorities you’ve been charged to accomplish?
My number one priority is to ensure we deliver a world-class venue and events in Rio 2016. Secondly, my other role is to ensure the relationship between the IGF and the Olympic movement and that includes the International Olympic Committee, the other international federations and the organizing committees that are putting together future Olympic games.
What is your timetable for selecting a venue?
Our timetable is to do it as soon as possible, if we can. I assume within the next couple of months we’ll have the location of the venue identified, and then we’ll move forward with what modifications or designs are required.
If you decide to build a venue, who most likely would be selected as an architect or how does that process work?
That process involves working with the organizing committee Rio 2016, and obviously we’ll have heavy input on that, but ultimately its Rio 2016’s responsibility to deliver the venue.
I understand Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, for example, have put in a bid … Have there been any others and can you talk about any details?
To be honest with you, I (am) not aware of any that have been given to us. They may have been given to the organizing committee. I know we have been working with the organizing committee looking at sites, but other than that, as to who or what will be building it, that’s for later discussion.
Will the IGF have any role in helping participating countries develop their national golf teams?
The IGF will have no directive role other than hopefully putting together some programs to assist countries in (team) development. We are hoping by the inclusion of golf in the Olympic program that countries that are new to the sport. . . that the government and other agencies will be able to generate some money into those programs and develop the sport in those countries. And therefore, generate more players and hopefully have those players play in the Olympics or on tour.
Has there been any further discussion about changing the format for Olympic golf? Or ways to modify the qualification process?
I don’t anticipate any modification at this stage. But ultimately, it’s the IOC that approves the qualification process and that happens two years out from the Games. The IGF’s role is to focus on the format that we proposed to the IOC, and hopefully, they will agree to that.
Why is golf important for the Olympics?
The universality of the sport, no doubt. The number of players that are competing on the tours is incredible. You just have to look at the four men’s majors this year: four different countries have won those. So the universality certainty is one of the great reasons of having golf on the program. The second thing is obviously we are going to have the world’s best players there, and they have committed to play. And the third thing: golf complements (the players’) values and Olympic movement values. Golf values honesty, integrity and sportsmanship, which just mirror those of the IOC. To me, it’s a great marriage between the Olympic movement and golf.
What will Olympics do for the game that players like Tiger Woods haven’t already done?
It’s what both can do for each other. The Olympic Games will provide for the players a unique opportunity to win a gold medal, which is to me one of the highest accolades a sportsman can aspire to. The fact that it will only happen once every four years is an opportunity that will have all the top players striving for it.
Golf is only guaranteed for two Olympics, after which it will be reviewed. What does that mean for you in getting it right the first time?
After every summer edition, programs are then reviewed by the executive board. So in 2017, all 28 sports will be up for reelection. So golf and other sports will be under the same scrutiny. Obviously, our aim is to make sure that golf continues and be seen by the Olympic movement as a key partner.
I understand you are an avid golfer?
I started when I was six years of age – my uncle is a pro in Australia. I got my first cutdown set from him; I think the set is still in my mum’s garage in Sydney. Whenever I could as a young bloke, I played golf … not well [laughing]. And since I’ve been at the IOC and the amount of travel that entails, the opportunities (to play) are slim. . . It’s one of frustrations you have; you love the game and you can’t you play much, but when you do play, you don’t play to the best of your ability because you don’t have the practice time. Obviously, at home with some young kids, it gets difficult as well, but my wife understands at times I need to get out there and hit the white ball.