New Olympic Sponsor Bridgestone Lends Support to Create Interactive Golf Zone
When it comes to potential long-term benefits from golf’s return to the Olympic Games, none is more pronounced than the opportunity to grow the game worldwide, particularly in countries where it is considered a developing sport.
A country like 2016 Olympic host Brazil.
The Olympics bring a whole new level of exposure to any sport, even one as well entrenched internationally as golf. Beyond the broadcast and media coverage of the men’s and women’s competitions over the next two weeks, there also will be the exposure to thousands of spectators who may not be well versed about the sport and many who might never have even struck a shot.
With this in mind, the International Golf Federation developed the concept of the Fan Zone, an area just inside the main spectator entrance to the Olympic golf course designed to engage and educate fans of all levels as golf returns to the Olympic Programme after an absence of 112 years.
The first area fans will see is SWING!, an educational golf exhibit that originally debuted last December at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Under the guidance of the IGF and the Olympic Museum, the World Golf Hall of Fame led a collaborative effort with its partner organizations, the British Golf Museum, USGA Museum and Golf Canada, to conceive this exhibition that presents an easy-to-understand overview of the sport in six key areas: “Golf Today,” “Equipment,” “The Game,” “Emblematic Courses Worldwide,” “Golf and its Champions,” “Golf & the Olympics.”
Progressing beyond SWING!, fans will come upon the Interactive Golf Zone, created in partnership with Bridgestone Corporation, a Worldwide Olympic Partner and longtime supporter of golf. This hands-on experience features a teaching area where local coaches offer 10-minute lessons at three inflatable golf nets; two golf simulators where spectators get three attempts for Nearest The Pin and Long Drive competitions; a six-hole Putting Course; and a 10-meter long-putt challenge, offering three attempts to make a hole-in-one.
From the IGF’s point of view, it was important to provide spectators the opportunity to gain a better appreciation for the sport they’re about to see, whether they are a novice or avid fan.
“This is truly an historic moment as golf returns to the Olympic Games after more than a century and the Fan Zone will bring an additional level of excitement to the overall experience for the thousands of spectators attending the Olympic Golf Competitions,” said Antony Scanlon, Executive Director of the IGF. “The idea was to present an educational, fun and interactive exhibit that will provide tuition and the opportunity for the fans to discover why millions of people worldwide love our sport.”
When it came to finding the right partner to develop the Interactive Golf Zone, Bridgestone was a logical choice because of its role as a new Olympic sponsor and its longtime involvement with the sport as a manufacturer of equipment and a major sponsor in Japan and with the U.S. PGA TOUR. Bridgestone was initially introduced to the IGF by the International Olympic Committee, which knew the IGF was interested in developing an exhibit to engage fans at the Olympic Golf Course.
“The decision to pursue a partnership with the IGF and help bring the Fan Zone to life was a natural evolution of Bridgestone’s support for golf, which extends more than 80 years to the company’s first production of golf balls in 1935,” explained T.J. Higgins, President of Consumer Integrated Tire Division, U.S. & Canada Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “Being involved in the sport’s return to the Olympic Games for the first time in more than 100 years was an exciting opportunity. We believe in the power of sport to excite and unite people from different backgrounds around the world, especially when it is something that people can touch and feel. Our team had experience delivering similar activations at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and a variety of PGA TOUR events, so it was something we were very much able to support and excited to help plan.”
As part of this partnership, Bridgestone is providing approximately 50 sets of clubs as well as golf bags, balls and other golf accessories that ultimately will be donated to the Confederation of Brazilian Golf following the Olympics to support the CBG’s efforts to grow the sport throughout Brazil.
“Among the CBG initiatives that will benefit from this donation is the Golf for Life program, which has trained more than 300 golf teachers and introduced more than 60,000 people – mostly children – to the sport of golf,” Higgins said. “Most recently the Golf for Life program offered free lessons to children in communities across Brazil as part of Transforma, the official education program of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games that Bridgestone is also supporting.”
So between creating Rio de Janeiro’s first public golf course and the ancillary benefits that come with hosting golf’s return to the Olympics, the impact will last well beyond these next two weeks