London summit to decide who controls squash’s future Olympic bids
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
Squash’s Olympic aspirations, and recent history of failing bids, will be high on the agenda tomorrow during an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the World Squash Federation in London.
The world of squash had to look on in astonishment and not a little jealousy yesterday as five new sports were given the green light to appear on the schedule in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Baseball and softball, karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing can now begin preparations to be included in the Tokyo 2020 programme after a vote of approval by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board.
All five sports were proposed by the Japanese organisers last year and a final decision, due to take place at an IOC meeting in Rio de Janeiro in August, is expected to be a formality.
The expansion brought about by the five new sports will create 18 new events with an extra 474 athletes due to compete.
Bizarrely, the Inside The Games website yesterday revealed that the five sports will receive no share of the revenue from Tokyo 2020. The IOC have confirmed that revenues will be distributed between the 28 programmes appearing on the programme in Rio this year.
After the latest failed Olympic bid, the mood in squash quickly turned from bitter disappointment, and a sense of being stitched up by the IOC, into blame and finger-pointing.
This led to several acrimonious exchanges at the World Squash Federation AGM in November when critics blamed the WSF, and president Narayana Ramachandran in particular, for the sport’s failure to impress the IOC and the Japanese hosts of the 2020 Games.
The PSA are expected to launch a process designed to take control over any future Olympic bids, citing the success of advances in event presentation and TV coverage, especially in the Dubai World Series Finals.
Ramachandran came in for considerable criticism at the WSF annual meeting and failed in a bid to extend his period in the job.
Several national federations have formed a global task force to address various issues surrounding the future of the sport, with squash’s Olympic aspirations a key ingredient of these discussions.
The disputes in squash have been mirrored in skateboarding. The Olympic vote clearly took the sport by surprise and it is unclear which one of two federations will be invited to manage the Olympic programme.
As for squash’s attitude to surfing gaining a place at our expense, it should be noted that Vero Communications, who had led the original squash bid for 2020, were sacked when WSF chief Ramachandran decided to take charge himself. Vero’s well-connected lobbyist Mike Lee was then snapped up by surfing.
The tide clearly began turning against squash as the Japanese organisers admitted they chose sports which had more appeal to young people.
Squash clearly has considerable work to do in changing the image of a sport which many outsiders feel is too middle-class and middle-aged.
Picture from Squash Mad archive