Friday, March 23, 2012


Back in 2009, the always respectable, honest, above-board, incorruptible International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted unanimously not to include squash into its Olympic brethren for the 2016 games. You can read a short article I wrote about that by clicking No-Lympics.
Ahh yes - the classic "crouching-
tiger-hidden-sword" maneuver.
Gold medal stuff.

Its three years down the road and in a fearful case of oncoming déjà vu, here we go again. Squash has been placed back on the shortlist for possible inclusion into the 2020 Olympiad. And what a competitive shortlist that is. Squash must prove its superior worthiness over baseball and softball (both of which were dropped from the Olympics in 2008, but somehow have managed to convince the IOC they were mistaken); karate; roller sports (which I guess includes roller skating, skate-boarding… isn’t that the X-Games?); sports climbing; wakeboarding; and wushu. Wushu? What in Batman’s underpants is wushu? I had to google it. I saw pictures of the Shaolin Monks. It’s a martial art. I consider myself to be somewhat of a sports nut, but I had never even heard of wushu before. And it’s shortlisted?

And if you delve a little deeper into which ‘sports’ dabbled in the attempt for recognition in some form or another but were denied entry even onto the final list, you simply have to scratch your head and wonder “are you ‘smurfing’ serious?” That list includes: Twenty20 Cricket, netball, dancing, bowling, surfing, bartending, pole dancing, yoga, cliff diving, bridge, billiards, orienteering, polo, basque pelota, korfball… I mean, are these ‘sports’ living in the same reality? Surely they decided to have a laugh whilst drinking a few pints at the bar and decided, “hey, wouldn’t it be a riot if we bid for Olympic status?” What’s korfball? Sounds made up. In fact, it sounds like anything can be considered a sport these days. Maybe we’ll see future bids for… speed-texting, or sauna-sitting, Tebow-ing? Watching television these days, maybe even running for political office could be regarded as a sport…? They beat each other up pretty well in that…

Anyhoo, before the IOC can vote in a new sport, they have to drop one from the current program. Which sport gets the axe is currently unknown, but rules permit that the eliminated sport can be added to the shortlist of recommended ones and bid for their spot back. So, technically, the sport deemed undeserving of Olympic status can be then be voted immediately back onto the program. A brilliant rule that defies all logic.

Now, before you study that list and start thinking that squash far and above, over the other sports, meet a lot more of Olympic essential criteria for inclusion, keep in mind that in 2009 it lost out to golf and rugby 7’s. Yes, rugby 7’s. Not the full version, the half-version. And golf. I have to chuckle about that, because I am convinced that the reason that was included was the belief that Tiger Woods would be the mega-super-duper-star that would attract millions of sponsorship dollars… and now going by his recent track record there’s a decent chance Tiger will be left out in the woods… snicker, snicker…!

So should squash be in the Olympics? Well, sure. As far as the athleticism and fitness requirements go, it’s a no-brainer. It also meets the obligations of all the other Olympic criteria. As squash players, addicts and enthusiasts, we all go brain numb with bewilderment at why we are on the outside looking in. After all, Olympic inclusion would be a huge boost for our sport. It would the pinnacle of every squash professional’s career to win a medal for their country, more exposure, more sponsorship dollars, more government support, greater junior development. Squash could benefit in so many ways. But alas, the IOC are not interested one iota in the benefits to squash. They want to know the benefits from squash.

Ching, ching! That undeniable sound of money! Revenue runs the machine. How much moolah can squash generate for the IOC? My guess is not much. While setting up a court and running a tournament wouldn’t cost much in comparison to other sports that need entire new stadiums constructed, the return is probably negligible. Taking that into consideration, and even though I know very little about the other sports on the shortlist, I really start to wonder how good squash’s chances really are. Add on the fact that NBC will be spending 4.38 billion dollars – that’s right, billion – to broadcast the next 4 Olympic Games, their influence on what will be shown on television in the US will no doubt lean a teensy-weensy bit towards the great American pastime of baseball rather than any of the other short-listed contenders. What do you think the average American is going to want to watch? Cabrera belt a 450-yard home run, or James Willstrop hit a perfect backhand volley drop into the nick? The squash associations need to start to come up with a plan on how to woo the IOC and get on the effective side of their political spiel. You can bet the other sports on the shortlist are doing exactly that and are trying just as hard as squash. We will have to wait until 2013 for the IOC vote.
Support the squash bid for the 2020 Olympic
Games through all social media. Look for
"squash2020" and join the movement!

I genuinely hope squash succeeds in its bid. It would be wonderful to see the first Olympic gold awarded to the likes of Ramy Ashour, who, if squash was in the 2020 games would be 33 years old and it would be the dream end to a career that – if he stays healthy – would be nothing short of legendary. But I am not all that optimistic. I look at the obscure sports on the shortlist and can’t help but think that if they can get themselves into serious consideration in the first place, what’s stopping them from going all the way? How far down are their hands into the pockets of the IOC members? If rugby 7’s can get in, it can’t be out of the realm of possibility that wushu can too.

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