Friday, January 27, 2023

Alan’s Blog: Olympic bid high on the agenda as five new sports are accepted by the IOC in Tokyo

IOC chief Thomas Bach met squash players at last year's Pan-Am Games but the smiles turned sour as squash's Olympic bid was rejected in Tokyo
IOC chief Thomas Bach met squash players at last year’s Pan-Am Games but the smiles turned sour as squash’s Olympic bid was rejected in Tokyo

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 

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  1. Maybe it’s time we stopped begging the IOC to let us in. We’ve given them the opportunity numerous times whilst our sport develops and becomes better to watch, and with our social media presence increasing a ridiculous amount so more people are seeing amazing shots and rallies. We have a great sport and its about time we say enough is enough and wait for them to beg squash to be included.

  2. It’s about the scoring. Even we can’t get consensus. Lets were brought about to avoid injury. Strokes should be excluded. Results in negative squash where people want a point from not playing a shot, rather than skill with racquet and ability. Those who don’t know the game cannot understand this. As was previously said, if Lomu can can score tries with 3 people hanging on him, what is this scoring a point if someone MAY be obstructing?

  3. Squash is a great sport, however, as previously mentioned, it’s rules are confusing to non players and even though TV coverage has improved, it’s still a bit dull to watch when players are hitting up and down the walls. It only gets exciting when Rodriguez, Castegne or Coll are retrieving / diving all over the place. That’s the last 20 seconds of a 2 minute rally and that’s the clip that’s shown on social media.

    There is a lack of appreciation on how tough squash as a sport is, because both players inhabit the same space. In tennis / badminton, non players can see the players moving each other around the court. You don’t really see that in squash. 2 steps to the ‘T’, 2 steps to the back corners – what’s so hard about that says every non player. That’s the issue – the pros make it look almost too easy

    As for the ‘youth’ vote, that’s smoke and mirrors. It’s about the celebrities of the sport, the brands that attracts and therefore the money that comes with the circus. Skateboarding, surfing etc have the celebrities and therefore the cool brands that the kids love to buy. Squash doesn’t. Ashour has 22k followers on Twitter, Tony Hawk has 4.1m. Potential reach for sponsors is what the Olympics is about. It’s a shop window.

    We need to stop pitching to the IOC that our sport is played on 6 continents, that Forbes rated it the healthiest sport ever, you can set a court up in glamorous locations and that a nice neat 32 man draw will fit in to their programme. YAWN. We can’t (at the moment) bring the IOC the dollars, so let’s stop chasing the Olympics until we can

  4. I agree with you both, Stevie & Royden, that it’s difficult for non-players. However, I think there might be a (partial) solution to this…

    While Joey & the other commentators do a good job, I think a lot of (if not most of) the time they are commentating for squash players.

    On the other hand, take mixed martial arts, for example – specifically, the UFC and one of their main commentators, Joe Rogan. He’s super-enthusiastic and gives detailed descriptions of what you are watching — in real time.

    I, like many others watching, don’t have a full understanding of what’s happening when fighters go to the ground and start rolling around. But Joe (with a background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) almost assumes nobody understands so he lets the viewer know not only what is happening but what each person wants/needs to do to escape/win.

    Again, he tells you in real-time and with the same urgency that the fighters are moving with. He educates you in an entertaining way.

    Back to squash, non-players just see 2 people taking a couple of steps back & forth. They don’t realize how fast & difficult the game is. I think the commentators should take it upon themselves to let people know how bloody hard our players are working… how close they were to just losing the rally on that shot… how hard they are breathing… etc… and with the same urgency that the players have on court.

    I’m guessing some traditionalist would resist this approach and some would say the commentators already do what I’ve suggested.

    However, like many of you, whenever I show a video-clip to a non-playing friend, I have to explain what’s happening and/or I can see they are not appreciating how much effort is being made.

  5. Agree with your last paragraph – we have a long way to go to re-brand ourselves out of the “middle class middle age” perception

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