By ALAN THATCHER
Devastated squash players last night demanded an investigation into Olympic voting procedures as wrestling was reinstated to the Games for 2020.
Squash finished third in yesterday’s vote in Buenos Aires behind wrestling and a combined bid from baseball and softball.
Wrestling registered 49 votes, baseball 24 and squash trailed in third with 22, missing out on a debut appearance in Tokyo.
England’s former British Open champion Lisa Opie, now an osteopath in London, said: “I am totally gutted. We absolutely deserve to be in the Olympics. The voting system has been a farce. The process has been described one observer as corrupt.”
Squash stars claimed the IOC contradicted their own decision to kick wrestling out of the Games in February before bowing to a highly political campaign, featuring Russian president Vladimir Putin, to allow the sport to immediately reapply.
Many squash players feared that the strong-arm alliance of the USA and Russia, the two countries who claimed most of the wrestling medals during last year’s Olympic Games in London, might prove to be unbeatable.
Those concerns were proved to be correct as wrestling achieved more votes than squash and baseball combined. Quite how they managed to persuade the IOC that they had overhauled an entire sport inside a few short months was not exactly clear.
Australian No.1 Cam Pilley added: “I am absolutely devastated. Squash ticked all the boxes it was told to tick by the IOC yet still didn’t get selected. The IOC contradicted their stated policy of bringing in a “new” sport for 2020. It smells funny to me.”
Former world champion Nick Matthew said: “The sport is clearly gutted but I had prepared myself for this outcome. The decision had a feeling of inevitability about it.
“It was clear to everyone involved that wrestling was going to be voted back in so it begs the question: was the last four years a waste of time?
“No is the answer because we have improved dramatically, especially the TV coverage, but if we tick all of the IOC criteria, as we clearly do, it begs another question, which is: What do we have to do?
“There was a promise to vote in a new sport, which has not happened. Very confusing.”
Guernsey’s Chris Simpson wrote on Twitter: “I don’t think squash should bother reapplying for inclusion. We’ve done everything we can to no avail. We should focus instead on simply growing the sport.”
Egypt’s world number one Ramy Ashour, who led the squash presentation team in Argentina, said: “We were the underdogs going into the vote but competed like champions. Squash will be back.”
Canadian player Mike McCue Tweeted: “We got even fewer votes than baseball. The only time those guys break a sweat is when the drug testers show up.”
World Squash Federation president Naranswamy Ramachandran, from India, said: “This decision is heartbreaking for millions of squash players around the world, particularly given the 10-year journey we have been on to join the Olympic programme.
“As the only new sport in the shortlist, we believed squash offered something for the future and I still hope our inclusion may be possible.
“I hope that today is not the end of our Olympic journey.”