Tuesday, June 16, 2015


As if the absurdity of the 2020 Olympic bidding process wasn’t farcical enough, it appears that the IOC has decided that yes, they actually should insert another sport or two into the program. Or maybe they’ll choose three? Right now, no one, it seems, knows how many will be added. Remember back in September of 2013, the IOC voted wrestling to be the “new” sport to the agenda? Irrelevant was the fact that wrestling had indeed been a part of the Games since its inception, was voted off the list just 6 months prior, only to be miraculously reinstated. The expensive and time consuming bidding process that squash (and all the other sports) went through vying for that spot was nothing more than an unadulterated fool’s errand and a colossal waste of effort.

So this is good news for squash, right? Okay, sure. The door has once again been left slightly ajar and the golden carrot can be seen dangling somewhere in the distance. But rather than ask the 2 sports that missed out behind wrestling to present their case anew – or simply add these sports in straight away since they ended up second and third in the original bidding - the IOC has opened up the spots to any and all. And, it seems, we have just a hysterically majestic and intriguing line up of potential Olympic candidates! There are 26 – yes, 26 – aspiring contenders. And squash has to go through the entire bidding process all over again.

Let’s go through this delectable list, shall we?

Let’s also keep in mind that the IOC want sports included that “serve as a driving force to promote the Olympic movement and its values, with a focus on youth appeal". Also vital is the fact that it has to draw local interest. The 2020 Games are in Tokyo, Japan. So the new sport(s) have to "engage the Japanese population and new audiences worldwide, reflecting the Tokyo 2020 Games vision.” With that in mind, should squash even waste it’s time bidding?

Baseball and softball are probably a guarantee to get included.  Baseball is huge in Japan (and the United States which hardly hurts its cause). It’s tough to argue against including it, except for the fact that the best players in the world – which is the MLB - wouldn’t waste their time from their season to do it, and the sport is littered with drug cheats. But, the sport has been Olympic before, so clearly the IOC doesn’t care about that.
Sumo Wrestling. Beautiful.

Other sports that will probably have a better chance than squash based on the above mantra would include karate and wushu (which is another martial art) and, believe it or not: sumo wrestling. Youth appeal? Absolutely! What other sport can you eat yourself to morbid obesity and still be considered an athlete? Kids these days would be all over that concept and hitting the fast food restaurants and donut shops. Super size? Of course!

Then there are the sports that I actually had to google to figure out what they are. I am fully aware that squash is not a house hold name in America. And more people than not look at me cross-eyed when I try to explain what I do for a living. But, squash is rather well known outside of the USA boundaries, and I consider myself rather well travelled having lived on 4 continents. Not even having heard of these sports before makes we wonder just how international there are. These include:

Air Sports. This apparently is an offshoot of gymnastics. Consists of trampoline; synchronized trampoline; power tumbling and double mini. Doubles mini is where they sprint to a mini trampoline, jump high in the air while they do summersaults, then jump onto a second mini trampoline to repeat the act for the dismount. Similar to vaulting but without the horse in the middle. Should this be even considered as a separate sport since it basically is gymnastics?

Floorball. This is field (or ice) hockey on a hard floor surface using a plastic ball and sticks. Is this for people who can’t skate or have allergies to grass?

Korfball. This is a hybrid of basketball and netball. (If you aren’t familiar with netball, it’s a ‘women’s’ version of basketball that is popular in commonwealth countries.) Interestingly, the teams here are mixed. Would that help their bid? No dribbling allowed – you have to stand still (or pivot) if you possess the ball and pass or shoot - the nets are about 15 feet from the back sidelines so you can shoot baskets from behind the net as well.

Underwater Sports. This one is so preposterous its comical. Disciplines here include:
Apnoea. Basically it means holding your breath underwater for a period of time. Like when we were kids at the local swimming pool testing ourselves against our friends. That being said, I hardly think this is a sport one should be promoting to children… “Welcome to the junior Apnoea Championships…. First up is little Tommy… Oh no, he just drowned himself…
Aquathlon: Wrestling in the water.
Finswimming: Seems to be racing in or on the water wearing a monofin or two fins.
Underwater Hockey: self explanatory I guess. Their own website claims it is played on over 20 countries worldwide. Squash is played in over 175.
Orienteering. Yes, underwater. Athletes swim from specified point to point with the use of a compass and distance meter.
Underwater rugby. Scrums must fun here. There were 13 countries involved the last world championships
Spear Fishing. Surely the IOC won’t allow the killing of innocent fish!
Sport Diving. Didn’t quite understand this one, but athletes compete in a variety of tasks underwater such as obstacle course and finding objects… oh boy.
Visual. This is photography underwater. Grab your water proof cell phones everybody… How can photography be considered a sport?
Target Shooting. According to the website, not much equipment is needed to do this. Who doesn’t have a diving mask, snorkel, a pair of fins, diving or snorkeling suit, weight-belt, a pair of gloves, mass-produced spear-gun (elastic or hydro-pneumatic), a silhouette and, of course, a target lying in their basement?
As I was typing this, I also wondered that since all of these events happen under the water, how would anybody be to go the venue and watch? Will the pools all be made of glass?

And here are the next list of sports that we mostly will recognize, but as squash players, cannot possible fathom they have a better chance than us to get in: Water skiing; Wakeboarding; Racquetball; Flying Disc (Ultimate Frisbee); Orienteering; Dance Sport; Bowling; Bowls (Curling on grass) Netball; Sport Climbing; Polo; Surfing; Roller Sports; and American Football. I don’t even know why American Football would want to be in the Olympics. Does any other country play it? Should there even be a sport in the Olympics that has the word “American” in it? Doesn’t that give the impression that the Americans, I don’t know, would dominate this one? They could send the Grosse Pointe South High School team and still win gold. Or the Detroit Lions.

And then there are the “sports” that simply aren’t sports. How these are even classified as sports is a real mind-boggler:

Bridge. A card game? Holy retirement home, Batman. Could it be that we see 90 year old Olympians in the future? … “..and we come to the end of the days play since it’s 4.30pm and it’s way past the athlete’s bedtime…”

Chess. A board game? … What’s next? Monopoly? Clue? Trivial Pursuit? Twister?

And last and by all means least, my all time favorite candidate: Tug of War. Incredibly, Tug of War used to be an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1920. Obviously I know what this is, but I just had to look up some highlights and see just how riveting it is to watch. If you don’t mind wasting 4 minutes of your life, here is the UK Tug of War Championships 2013 in the600kg division:
Action a plenty. Mesmerizing. Enchanting.

It is a diverse list and I’m sure the IOC will have its work cut out to narrow the field on June 22. Then the shortlist will make another presentation on September 30 with a final decision on which sport(s) make the cut on August 2016, shortly before the Rio Olympics.

Even though I am poking fun at many of the sports here, I am sure each and every one of them requires specific skills and plenty of hard work to excel at it. But surely they must realize that their chances of Olympic inclusion would be infinitesimal. Is their application just to get the IOC to see they are on the radar and want publicity?

I’m sure squash will once again make the short list, but considering 2020 is in Tokyo, squash does not have any appeal to the host country. We’ll make the bid, no doubt do a splendid job, meet all the requirements and criteria, spend a bucket load of money, get a little sniff of the prize to tantalize our senses, and then get unceremoniously rejected.

And, most of all, I hope I’m completely wrong.

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