Squash legends label the Olympics “a mockery”
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Former world champions Nick Matthew, Laura Massaro and Michelle Martin have all attacked the IOC for “making a mockery of the Olympics” following this week’s confirmation of breakdancing being added to the events programme for the Paris Games in 2024.
Many top professionals and squash fans have joined a chorus of support on social media. From now on breakdancing is to be known as “breaking”. But many people in squash refuse to acknowledge it as a genuine sport. It takes its place in Paris alongside surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing, with squash overlooked yet again very early in the process.
The French hosts made the decision in February last year, crushing squash’s Olympic hopes yet again by announcing their choices just three days after a joint Squash Goes Gold campaign was launched by the WSF and PSA. The French organisers were keen to bring in more activities that appeal to youth culture in the hope of generating significant commercial revenues.
English stars Matthew and Massaro won the world championship three times and once respectively. They told The Times that they fail to understand how squash continues to be ignored by the IOC despite meeting all the criteria for selection.
Matthew said: “I think we are going further and further away from the Olympic ideals of ‘faster, higher, stronger’. We knew squash was going to miss out but I believe we are drifting away from sport towards entertainment.
“You saw it with skateboarding coming in for the delayed 2020 Games and now you have breakdancing for 2024. I’m amazed and in awe of what is done in those but we are talking about the Olympic Games here.
“Other sports have been accepted without ticking all those boxes — the Olympics is not the pinnacle of golf, I’m not sure you can call rugby truly global, and baseball is back in despite having a terrible anti-doping record,” he said.
Massaro revealed: “I’m sure breakdancing is fun and great but the feeling you have been topped by that doesn’t feel good — squash in the Olympics would have been such a massive deal.
“We have done such an amazing bid, it really is a global sport, and there is more equality arguably than any other sport, that’s what’s frustrating. The IOC clearly sent a message, and it feels it’s now just become commercialisation — the next thing will probably be gaming.”
Martin, the three-times world champion from Australia, expressed her anger and bewilderment at the decision in an interview with the Australian Associated Press agency, which was picked up by numerous news outlets across the world.
Martin told AAP: “You just look at the whole thing and you just go ‘where’s the Olympics going?’ I know some people say breakdancing’s a sport but … I don’t understand.
“The Olympics was all about a score, or it was a running race. There was a definitive answer and results to sports.
“You bring in all these judging things and it just gets so corrupt and so out of control. I just don’t get it any more.”
In support of numerous previous bids, leading squash players including Ramy Ashour, Nicol David and Martin’s fellow Australian Sarah Fitzgerald have stood on various podiums around the world to lobby hard for squash’s inclusion in the Olympics.
Those campaigns have even found significant support from tennis legend Roger Federer, who grew up playing squash in Switzerland and frequently acknowledges the sport for teaching him the movement required for some incredible lunges around the baseline to reach and retrieve seemingly unplayable shots.
Last weekend, he was pictured in the crowd watching the final of the Sihital Classic squash tournament in Langnau, Switzerland, one of the few PSA World Tour events to be held since the global lockdown restrictions began in March.
The image of Federer, standing in the wings to the side of the bleachers, letting the kids go in front and hoping to catch a glimpse of the action, was something of a metaphor for squash and the Olympics.
The 53-year-old Martin says she has lost all hope of squash ever becoming an Olympic sport. She added: “It’s sort of making a mockery of what the Olympics is.
“What does the Olympics stand for these days? I don’t really know. The Olympics has lost what it was. Yes they’re trying to move with the times but it’s creating a mockery of the thing.”
Martin, who won six British Open titles, spoke about the phenomenal fitness and agility of leading professionals who deliver top-class entertainment at the highest level.
She could also have mentioned the sell-out crowds that watched the squash events in the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games competitions in Glasgow and Gold Coast.
Clearly bewilderd by the whole process, she concluded: “They (the IOC) have obviously got something against squash, because it’s been rejected in the past. It just keeps getting overlooked.
“I don’t know why. I don’t know what more to say.”
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