Many celebrities from all over the globe were also behind the endeavor, and it must be mentioned that the effort, time and sacrifice put in by Nicol David – women’s world number 1 from Malaysia – was so commendable as she turned herself into the face of squash and the Olympics, she should be immortalized now in the Squash Hall of Fame. That’s not to diminish other squash stars’ efforts as well: James Willstrop, Ramy Ashour, Mohamed El Shorbagy, Nick Matthew, just to name a few.
However, as I look back at the entire spiel involving the selection of a “new” sport onto the 2020 Olympic agenda, I cannot help but think what a complete insult it was to the above mentioned and a total waste of everybody’s time, energy, and money. I typed “new” in inverted commas because although the IOC’s original aim was to add a new sport to the program, they instead decided to add an old sport back. In fact, the same sport they so unceremoniously voted off just 7 months earlier. Yesterday, the IOC voted to reinstate wrestling, once again leaving squash on the outside looking glumly in.
The impression the IOC have left is one of categorical idiocy. An impression that they had zero intention of voting in any sport other than wrestling. It should not have been voted off in the first place, as there are other Olympic disciplines that deserved the chop (pentathlon for example). If the IOC had issues with the way wrestling was conducting itself, there were other ways to grab its attention to make changes. The path they took instead – by cutting it and then forcing everyone to go through the bid process – was nothing short of criminal. The sports that didn’t get voted in should sue to get their expenses back.
In the end, one may have been led to believe it was a two horse race between wrestling and squash. But in fact it was a 3-horse race. Baseball / softball were also in the mix. (In reality, it wasn’t a race at all.) Over the past number of months I have read a lot of articles and reader’s comments as the voting day approached and baseball / softball rarely got a mention. I didn’t see a huge push by their fans unlike the other two sports that tried to advertise the stuffing out of it. (Most of the reader’s comments were literally wrestling v squash. Intriguingly, squash fans for the most part acknowledged that wrestling should not have been voted off and consider it a reputable Olympic sport. Naturally, they wished for squash to get the vote and it would have been unfortunate at wrestling’s expense, but hey, they only had the IOC to blame. Wrestling fans however, were less sympathetic. They had no problem criticizing squash from being too easy, un-athletic, and it being ridiculous that it was even being considered. They arguments were so far out of left field it was comical. They took it personally that squash was challenging it. Maybe the aggressive nature of the sport creates such personalities?) You would probably be surprised to know – but then again maybe not! - that when the IOC voted on which 3 sports could bid for the one spot in 2020, squash scraped through that stage by the paint of its racquet frame. Wrestling was elected in immediately after the first round of voting (I smell a conspiracy!), baseball / softball a couple of rounds later, and squash got through in the final round of voting narrowly beating out karate. Not exactly a positive result – or omen.
If hypocrisy was an aroma, the IOC would stench of it. They claim they wanted a “new” sport. They voted in an old one. They claim they want drug free athletes, but not only are current sports on the agenda littered with drug cheats (athletics, cycling, weightlifting, just name a few), two of the three sports that were vying for the final spot have a long history of drug cheats too. Baseball… well we all know about don’t we… and wrestling has had its fair share of users as well. Squash has never had an athlete caught using PED’s. I have never even heard a rumor of a squash player using one either. Squash players have been caught using recreational drugs (marijuana) but that’s hardly the same thing.
Even though baseball / softball seemed to be nowhere near the radar, when the final votes were tallied and wrestling received over 50% of the votes (and therefore automatically won the spot), baseball / softball scored more votes than squash. That’s right, squash came in last – behind a sport that has countless drug cheats and wouldn’t have even sent their best players to participate since the MLB refused to postpone the season during the Games. How is squash supposed to compete fairly within the IOC when the IOC delegates totally ignore everything that is wrong with a sport along with their own criteria when considering who deserves a place at the table?
And corruption? I recently came across an article that placed wrestling in a very unfavorable light. In 2010, an Indian wrestler competing for a gold medal at the World Championships in Russia against a Russian opponent was asked to throw the bout for money. The Indian wrestler refused the offer and went on to win anyway. But where did the offer come from? Who was involved? Is this a common practice in wrestling? Should other results suddenly become under scrutiny? Were there any suspicious major upsets? Did the IOC look seriously into these allegations or did they turn a blind eye? No prize to guess what action they took.
As September 8 neared (the day the IOC voted for a “new” sport), it looked as if a large percentage of squash fans – although loudly still hoping against hope – where resigned to the fact that the battle was all but lost and we were simply going through the motions. Two weeks before the vote, somebody had actually registered the domain name: www.squash2024.com and was selling it on-line. Bids started at 299 Euro. Expensive. The World Squash Federation (WSF) may have to invest and will be forced to go through the entire painstaking process once again. We don’t even know if the Olympics will be looking for a “new” sport in 11 years time. Wow, that’s a long, long time away. How depressing.