Thursday, November 30, 2023

Alan’s Blog: One year on from the greatest show in squash

The Times front cover featured Cam Pilley and Greg Lobban
The Times wrap-round cover featured Cam Pilley and Greg Lobban

Glasgow Games anniversary coincides with squash’s 2020 vision for an Olympic place in Tokyo

By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor

One year ago this week, squash was in the middle of a magnificent love-in. A warm glow surrounded the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as noisy, exuberant crowds packed the Scotstoun venue every day for both singles and doubles.

All of the squash players who appeared in the main arena basked in the phenomenal atmosphere that spurred them to exceptional heights.

They were uplifted and enthralled by the rapturous welcome every time they entered the temporary arena that featured towering grandstands built behind both the front and back walls, with smaller stands on the side walls.

More than one million viewers tuned in to BBC to watch Nick Matthew beat James Willstrop in a 100-minute men’s final that reached extraordinary heights considering both players were nursing damaged bodies.

The Times newspaper Scottish edition even featured a wrap-round cover with an action picture from the match between Australia’s Cameron Pilley and Scotland’s Greg Lobban.

With 35,000 spectators for the 11 days of squash competition in Glasgow, ticket revenue almost certainly topped one million dollars, a figure that did not go unnoticed by the IOC.

As we salute this anniversary, squash has also celebrated similar scenes in the Pan-American Games in Toronto.

Fittingly, as squash’s application process for the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 gets under way, the IOC President Thomas Bach popped into the Toronto squash arena to chat with players and officials.

It was a massive boost for all those involved in squash’s Olympic ambitions and delivered hope that maybe this time we will be successful.

This groundswell of goodwill is set against a backdrop of regeneration and transformation in many of the main Commonwealth squash countries, plus more than a few nervous debates about funding and participation.

England have appointed a new chief executive, Keir Worth, who is busy restructuring the association and building plans to grow the game after an alarming slump in playing numbers.

The 2014 hosts, Scotland, have undergone a traumatic year which has led to the departure of chief executive John Dunlop and head coach Roger Flynn, who is understood to be heading back to Australia.

Squash Australia, hosts of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, are also regrouping, with a new chief executive Richard Vaughan, a former Olympic badminton international from Wales who reached No.7 in the world rankings. A new national coach is also being sought.

Malaysia, who celebrated Nicol David’s gold medal in Glasgow, have been stung by a reduction in funding and sponsorship, which is likely to lead to the disappearance of the Malaysian Open and a possible shrinking of the national coaching programme.  

India, who celebrated gold in the women’s doubles, have just launched a new professional series and hope to revive a major PSA tournament following the disappearance of the Punj Lloyd event. 

Canada sent only two players (Shawn Delierre and Samantha Cornett) to Glasgow. South Africa, sadly, sent none. Earlier last year, Australia had chosen not to send any players to the World Junior Championships. 

Despite wishing to leave the politics aside, it was sad to see a total absence of any kind of legacy programme for squash in Scotland following the Commonwealth Games.  

The full-house audiences in Scotstoun proved that a market exists for a top-class annual tournament in Scotland. I can reveal that interested parties are trying to make this happen. We wish them every success.

Following the successful staging of the Pan-Am Games, Toronto has expressed an interest in hosting the 2024 Olympics.

Boston is now officially out of the running after an acrimonious withdrawal this week, leaving Los Angeles as the only US city bidding against Rome and Paris.

Alan’s A-Z of the Commonwealth Games 2014: Part One

Alan’s A-Z of the Commonwealth Games 2014: Part Two

Big crowds flocked to the Glasgow squash every day
Big crowds flocked to the Glasgow squash every day



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