Sunday, July 14, 2024

Glasgow’s Golden Games gives squash an Olympic boost

Squash upbeat as IOC discuss new selection and voting processes

England's medal winners in Glasgow
England’s medal winners in Glasgow


Squash could be heading to the Olympic Games after all, perhaps not in 2020, as some reports have suggested, but hopefully momentum is building for a shot at inclusion in 2024 following a hugely successful showing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Squash Mad sources understand that the IOC is reviewing the entire competition structure and bidding processes. These will be discussed at a meeting in December.

New IOC president Thomas Bach, from Germany, is believed to be keen to make amends for a confusing selection process that led to the fateful vote in Buenos Aires last September when wrestling was allowed back into the fold, contradicting a previous IOC promise that a new sport would be allowed into the schedule for Japan in 2020.

The IOC have initiated a consultation process called Agenda 2020, with a variety of committees reviewing a whole raft of policies and regulations that shape the Games programme. The number of sports, their means of entry and general staging, are among the issues likely to be discussed.

Should the IOC decide to expand the number of sports in the future, then squash hopes to be among the first in the queue following the successful staging of high-quality singles and doubles competitions in Glasgow. These events were played out to packed crowds at the impressive 2,500-capacity Scotstoun venue.

Squash was the only “new” sport to make their shortlist for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics, which are to be staged in Japan. However, any voting process will be much further down the road once the consultation process has produced much-desired solutions to the selection procedures, which often commit “smaller” sports such as squash to find the funding for million-dollar campaigns that may be dead in the water before they even start because of the financial muscle of rival bidders, as was the case with wrestling.

A possible place for squash to make its debut in Japan will not be voted on in December, although recommendations could be made at that meeting for voting upon at a subsequent congress. The programme for 2020 was finalised in Buenos Aires, so the most likely scenario is that the IOC will look at making changes in subsequent Games.

However, some figures in squash are keeping their fingers crossed that a change of heart, or direction, might allow for a call-up to squash to take part in 2020.

The most positive news to emerge from Scotland is that the successful staging of the squash in Glasgow, and the high audience figures at Scotstoun every day, have clearly been noted by the IOC. 

BtqBSXLIMAAHIIKWorld champion Nick Matthew, who won the men’s singles gold medal and collected silver in the men’s doubles with Adrian Grant, is a vociferous supporter of squash’s bid for a place in the Olympics.

He and fellow medal winners James Willstrop, Laura Massaro and Peter Barker joined TV presenter Gary Lineker on the BBC sofa in Glasgow (right) and all four athletes pushed squash’s Olympic credentials in the most positive manner.

Matthew followed up by writing in his column in the Sheffield Star: “The Commonwealth Games have been a great advertisement for squash and raised awareness of the sport. I think the IOC have reopened talks over squash becoming an Olympic sport, which is great news.

“Everyone who has watched it this week will have seen there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why it shouldn’t be an Olympic sport. If there was ever any doubt, the two finals on Monday should have closed the door.

“I ask the question, what more do the IOC want from a sport? They’ve put us through the ringer and we have proven ourselves time and time again. What more do we have to do to become an Olympic sport?”


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