UPDATE 2-Olympics-Golf, rugby sevens shortlisted for 2016 Games

Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:01am EDT

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* Golf and rugby sevens beat off five other sports

* Final decision set for October

(updates with quotes, details)

By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Golf and rugby sevens took a major step towards inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games after being shortlisted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday.

The two sports, which last featured in the Olympics more than 80 years ago, were selected from seven candidate sports by the IOC's executive board and a final vote on their inclusion will be held at the IOC session in Copenhagen in October.

The other five -- squash, softball, baseball, roller sports and karate -- will need to wait another four years before attempting to make it on to the Games programme.

"In the end, the decision came down to which two would add the most value," IOC President Jacques Rogge told reporters.

"Golf and rugby scored high on all 33 criteria."

The IOC has been eager to give its sports programme a facelift to attract a younger audience and boost sponsorship opportunities.

Rugby was first to be shortlisted, getting the necessary majority votes of the 14-member executive board in just two rounds of voting.

Golf battled it out with karate, which had initially won more votes but lacked outright majority, grabbing the second spot after four rounds of voting.

Golf could now return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

"This is the biggest growth opportunity for golf, said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient (R&A) and one of the bid leaders.

"Golf has a lot to offer to the Olympic movement."

Rugby, which featured in four of the first seven Games until 1924, has proposed its shorter and smaller version of sevens.

"It is a big step we took today," said International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset. "We worked hard for two years and we felt this work paid off today. Now we have another step to climb in October."

"The Olympic Games would be the pinnacle of the sport for all our athletes and the Rugby Family, providing the opportunity for the best men's and women's players in the world to showcase their talent on the world's greatest sporting stage," he said.

For softball and baseball, who were taken off the Games in 2005 and will not feature from 2012 onwards, it was a bitter decision with severe economic repercussions.

"Reinstatement would have been the catalyst for further sustainable growth," said international softball chief Don Porter. "We will continue to pursue our Olympic dream."

(Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)