It’s that time again when the Olympic rings seem to pop up everywhere you turn.

Thanks to cash-sodden sponsors and money-soaked official partners dishing out vast sums to secure the right to integrate those five, interlocking thingamajigs into their advertising campaigns and products, even the most hum-drum household items are injected with a new sense of thrusting dynamism.

I once, for instance, nonchalantly scrawled through an Olympics website and up popped a message for a leading cleaning agent manufacturer excitedly suggesting that we should all “share the exhilaration of the Games” by purchasing one of its wares.

Presumably, nothing encapsulated the endeavour, the sacrifice, the elation and the dejection of supreme athletic aspiration quite like a 500ml bottle of frothy liquid that promises to remove stubborn limescale from your showerhead with just a couple of squirts.

It’s all happening in Tokyo right now and later this week, golf gets in on the act as the men’s event swings into action. The build-up, of course, has, inevitably, not been without its troubles in these troubled times. The late, covid-related withdrawal at the weekend of Jon Rahm, the world No 1, and the love-him-or-loathe-him publicity generating machine that is Bryson DeChambeau was another blow to a tournament that had already featured a number of high-profile call-offs.

That being said, the line-up still includes newly crowned Open champion, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy and host nation hero, Hideki Matsuyama. Should the reigning Masters champion finish up perched on top of the podium, he’ll probably get the keys to the Golden Pavilion let alone a gold medal.

A fascinating storyline, meanwhile, features the situation surrounding Korean PGA Tour players Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim. A medal wouldn’t just bring Olympic glory and gushing adulation, it would also give them an exemption from mandatory, two-year military conscription. One can only imagine what the jitters would be like hovering over a tricky, eight-footer down the hill on the last and thinking, “crikey, this to avoid National bloody Service.”

It’s 121 years since golf first appeared at the Olympics. Back in jolly old 1900, the Games were tagged on to the Paris World Fair in a come-all-ye curiosity which featured such pursuits as hot air ballooning, Basque pelota, a swimming obstacle race, the long jump on horseback and the shooting of live pigeons.

The intrepid golfers of the time included Jedburgh’s Walter Rutherford, who would finish second, and Glasgow’s David Robertson, a Shawlands solicitor who also represented Scotland at rugby. Robertson would take third place but we’re not sure if his trail blazing efforts got an honourable mention in the Tuesday column of 1900. They were worthy of acclaim, though.

“Robertson, like Rutherford, is the forgotten Olympian,” said James Bancroft, a Manchester-based historian and author of The First Olympic Golf Match.

Golf appeared again at the 1904 Games in St Louis but disappeared from the Olympic scene until 2016. Its re-introduction, of course, was greeted with mixed feelings by players as shrugging indifference battled with giddy excitement. It has to be noted that the world’s leading women golfers were far more united in their overwhelming positivity.

Here in 2021, the contrasting feelings on the men’s side remain and, in many ways, we have still to be convinced where a gold medal ranks on the list of golfing priorities which are centred around the four annual majors.

Adam Scott, who has never been convinced of golf’s Olympic inclusion, once described it as nothing more than “an exhibition.” But then, some bearded cynics propping up the Red Lion bar in Prestwick in 1860 possibly thought the same about the very first Open when eight players pitched up for a clatter around the town’s great links. Prestige doesn’t happen overnight.

The men’s modern majors are different to what they were many moons ago when the Amateur Championships on both sides of the Atlantic were classed as grand slam events. In this process of evolution, an Olympic medal may become just as sought after in years to come if golf maintains its spot in the Games. The scarcity of a golfing gold is its great strength.

Justin Rose, the winner at Rio 2016, has always been jubilantly effusive about what a career-defining moment his Olympic experience was and how he took inspiration from sportsmen and women excelling in other disciplines. By all accounts, it was an eye-opening education. In a wider sense, it was an eye-catching exercise too. Rose’s thrilling last day shoot-out with Henrik Stenson, for instance, was second only to the Masters in terms of viewing figures for a golf event that year.

On the biggest stage in sport it’s important to see the bigger picture. McIlroy is playing on the basis that he believes “it’s the right thing to do” while wanting to “represent the game of golf” on this important, all-encompassing platform.

Golf can be a selfish pursuit. At the very top, we regularly hear players preaching that they’re “independent contractors” when it suits them. The Olympic opportunity, though, calls for collective responsibility and a broader awareness.

Yes, we all know the golf schedule is jam-packed but, once every four years, it surely can’t do players any harm to do what’s best for the game rather than themselves.