Saturday, December 9, 2023

Olympic disaster in Tokyo

Spectators wait for the results to be declared in Tokyo
Spectators wait for the results to be declared in Tokyo

Baseball tops the list as five new sports are chosen, but squash bid fails again


Squash failed to sway the Tokyo hosts as the World Squash Federation’s bid for a place in the 2020 Olympics was rejected today.

The Tokyo 2020 Additional Event Programme Panel voted to propose baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing as new sports for the 2020 Olympics. Squash was one of eight sports bidding for a place, with bowling and wushu also failing to impress the voting panel.

The news appeared to have been leaked ahead of the official announcement, with Japanese female squash No.1 Misaki Kobayashi revealing on social media that local TV and news outlets were already reporting that squash had failed to make the cut. Media outlets in Malaysia had received a leaked list two hours in advance.

The IOC, mindful of the criticism that cloaked the readmission of wrestling in the Buenos Aires voting process, were keen to be seen to be holding a wide-ranging and transparaent voting process this time round. A total of 26 sports was assessed and in June this number was reduced to eight, when snooker, bridge and chess were blocked from going further.

Outside of America, Japan is a lone outpost where baseball is popular. Baseball and softball, united under the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), were always regarded as the favourites. Their last appearance in the Games was in Beijing in 2008.

As baseball and the other chosen sports celebrated passing this latest round of voting (any new sports will not be confirmed by the IOC until August 2016), the world of squash was left feeling stunned, angry and embarrassed by this latest rejection.

IOC boss Thomas Bach meets squash players during the Pan-Am Games in Canada
IOC boss Thomas Bach meets squash players during the Pan-Am Games in Canada

The official line from the WSF was that “we will carry on the fight”. But for squash to finish behind pursuits such as skateboarding and sports climbing made it a painful and humiliating experience for the global squash family.

The feelings of leading players, venting their disappointment on social media, illustrated how much the decision hurt. Responding to the Tweets from Kobayashi, England’s Daryl Selby said: “I don’t think anyone really got their hopes up this time as everyone knew the inevitability of the result.”

Egypt’s Marwan Elshorbagy added:” I can’t believe it. This is such a joke.”

Ritwik Bhattacharya, the PSA Asia Representative, said: “No sport deserves to be in the Olympics more than squash. I find it hard to believe that the IOC needs further convincing.

“Squash is a top sport and our players the best athletes in the world – with or without the Olympics. The Squash community is more united than ever before and will grow nonetheless.”

Malaysia’s Delia Arnold said: “This was the best chance for us to get into the Olympics. It’s disappointing, but we will keep trying to improve the game. I believe, one day, we will get there. It’s just a matter of time.”

Her Malaysian team-mate Low Wee Wern added: “We have a strong case but we always seem to fall short. This time is no different. Was looking forward to good news, yet we are disappointed once again.”

PSA: We remain positive

Within minutes of the announcement, the PSA issued the following release.

In the wake of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Organising Committee’s decision to omit squash from its list of recommended sports to gain inclusion in the 2020 Games, Professional Squash Association (PSA) Chief Executive Alex Gough says the sport should remain positive despite the latest blow to any Olympic aspirations.

Squash was one of three sports initially in the running to make it to 2020 but was forced to embark on yet another period of uncertainty when wrestling was reinstated, ahead of squash and baseball/softball, only months after being dropped from the Olympic programme and after the Tokyo Committee today recommended that baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing and surfing be included ahead of squash, Gough says the sport still has plenty to be positive about.

“The Olympic Games should be the pinnacle of any athlete’s career and inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Games would be a defining moment for squash and our athletes and to know that dream is once again out of reach is naturally a difficult proposition for the sport,” said Gough.

“But I feel we can take a lot of positives from the huge ground we have made as a sport over the last decade – transitioning into a bourgeoning global sport that is now broadcast in almost 100 countries worldwide and which has witnessed increases in player earnings by over 20 per cent so far in 2015 alone.

“As a sport squash is committed to driving forward equality, both in revenue earning potential and playing opportunities across both sexes, having already made huge strides towards parity over the past 12 months and as one of the cleanest drug records of any professional sport in the world, which is played in over 180 countries – boasting a truly global footprint that many other sports cannot match – everyone in the sport can feel truly proud of where we are.”

Squash was one of eight sports alongside baseball/softball, bowling, karate, roller sports, climbing, surfing and wushu vying for a place at the Games in the latest round of protracted lobbying following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to drop the cap on sports last year.

While Tokyo 2020’s decision not to include squash in its list of recommendations is a blow to the sport’s hopes of Olympic inclusion, a glimmer of hope still remains as the ultimate decision will be taken at the 129th IOC Session in Rio, Brazil, in August, 2016.

“Our players, who regularly cover over four kilometres per match, are amongst the fittest athletes in the world and as a sport that can be enjoyed equally at beginner level and elite, we feel that we perfectly epitomise the characteristics desired by the IOC of an Olympic sport,” added Gough.

“And as a cost effective sport, requiring just 64 athletes across both a men’s and women’s event and with the ability to be played in any location, we would have had a limited impact on the Games’ budget and offer Tokyo the opportunity to showcase their city in a way unmatched by any other sport.

“Through three previous failed attempts to gain inclusion into the Games we have addressed all the issues and concerns the IOC have had regarding the sport and while it is difficult to accept that work will not lead to inclusion at the ultimate sporting event, we are buoyed by the strides the sport continues to take and we continue to work tirelessly to ensure the sport earns the global recognition it truly deserves.”

The five sports put forward by Tokyo
The five sports put forward by Tokyo

WSF President ‘Devastated’ by Tokyo rejection

World Squash Federation (WSF) President N Ramachandran said he is ‘devastated’ by today’s news that the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has not recommended to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Squash be added to the programme of the 2020 Olympic Games.

“After our 12-year journey to join the Olympic Games programme, and the opportunity of a ‘second chance’ after the heart-break of missing out in our first 2020 bid in Buenos Aires two years ago, I am utterly devastated on behalf of our great sport that our dream of taking part in the Tokyo Games cannot now be realised,” said Ramachandran.

“I don’t believe we could have done more to get our message across to both the Tokyo 2020 Games hosts and the IOC of how Squash could bring something special as an addition to the Programme.

“I know I speak on behalf of the millions of Squash players around the world for whom the opportunity of seeing their sport participate in the Olympics has been an absolute priority – and, like me, they will be heartbroken.

“However, this is not the end for squash,” added Ramachandran. “Our sport, played by vast numbers week in and week out, flourishes at every level from recreational to events around the world. We will go from strength to strength while we continue to target participation at a future date in the Games.”




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  1. Baseball and softball have 6 countries each in Tokyo. This for 3 medals. That is nothing global there.

    It is time Squash stops wasting time and money on useless Olympic dreams where decisions are not based on logic.

    Spend that money on global marketing and in developing the sport in smaller countries instead.

  2. What the hell is the reason for selecting Surfing and Skateboarding as Olympic sports?
    Squash can be and is played at any age and is addmitted as one of healthiest sports in the world.
    Meanwhile doing skateboarding and surfing is soooo limited to age and locations! Which place IOC is thinking with?

  3. I do not think anyone with any sense can really take the Olympics ideal seriously after this decision. I suggest squash now draws a line; forgets this nonsense and makes the Commonwealths its top priority for multisport participation events. Either that or make its own Olympic squash event and let the IOC watch from the wings.
    I look forward to watching that very well known sport of Skateboarding with all its globally famous people making a huge impact at Tokyo 2020. I might go down to the local skatepark to look at the 11 year olds who will no doubt be participating. I am off for a cold shower.

  4. in my opinion, the olympics are irrelevant to the sport of squash. the importance of being in the olympics is primarily felt by the governing bodies who would receive a substantial increase in funding from the ioc and their respective national olympic bodies, but how this would benefit players remains unclear. there are plenty of dumb sports in the olympics and their inclusion in the olympics hasn’t made them any less dumb. in my opinion the men and women on the psa tour need to get paid at least ten times more right now, and the goal should be for a pro squash player to make a respectable living with a secure retirement. sponsors and promoters should recognise that creating larger events with significantly increased prize funds will help to improve the status and visibility of squash more than gaining olympic status. screw the olympics — play squash!

  5. Surely the people that run squash have to look at themselves here. Even the press releases they put out are not the sort of thing that the IOC likes. Always saying how much better squash is and more deserving… Yet where are a massive audiences around the World… a couple of tournaments bring them in but it’s about time the sport decided to accept its position and not waste more money.

  6. As I see it we have a couple of options.
    1) We forget about the Olympics and concentrate on growing the sport among the young ones. We can grow the sport until IOC comes to us and ask us – Please would you consider joining the Olympics. At that time we’ve improved our skills to accomodate more spectators live and greatly improved our ability to televise in such a way that more people than squashlovers gather in front of the screen. This could involve us looking into not least the way that the rules and refereeing works.
    2) We continue to waste energy and money in a useless struggle to get inside the Olympics. Along the way we lose our good spirit and temper. We start accusing not only IOC but we commit internal suicide with self criticism and endless blaming and finger pointing – We should have done it this and that way!

    What do I recommend?
    Well have your guess.
    The best I’ve seen from what squash can do is what I see in amazing projects like Street Squash (and other similar very ambitious programs). We need to dig even deeper and start finding more kids to support, parents to engage, grown ups to challenge.

    Let’s create a clear agenda for the future that supports clubs and club owners in their efforts to grow.

    Let’s get so bloody good that sponsors line up to use us in their CSR ambitions!

    Grow squash Grow!

    • Peter
      You have highlighted one enormous priority for squash: uniting our world-class professionals with the grass-roots of the game.
      We need more publicity for our sport (that usually translates into more television coverage) so that average club players and our army of juniors can identify with the star players.
      As well as the coverage of the PSA Tour, we need to create affordable TV coverage in each major nation. America is a massive market, but with a rather parochial approach to sports media. We need to create TV events such as Team USA v Team Canada. The Americans love to cheer on a Team USA, as witnessed in the football and rugby World Cups. We need to make this happen in squash. And not just for America – it should be on the agenda for every squash nation.

  7. Nick Matthew has been very diplomatic in his latest you tube interview about the decision. He is really going to to be an asset for squash when he retires I am sure. I am slightly concerned that the “marquee” players will be going in the next period. We have already lost Darwish and Shabana (he done so well to play till 36).
    Matthew cannot be far from retirement together with Willstrop, Gaultier, Anjema, Barker, Golan, Selby, Pilley, Walker all similar ages with most of their career past. None of them will be in the Olympics which must be a disappointment for the sport.
    We have the Egyptians but once the above have gone for good I am not sure the strength at the top of the game will be what is was.
    Everything runs in cycles I know but I hope this 2020 decision is not going to jinx the sport for the immediate future.

    • Andrew
      Some interesting comments – thank you. You are right about this group of players nearing the end of their careers, but every era throws up great champions and contenders. I am fascinated by the prospect of young players like Diego Elias of Peru and Eain Yeow Ng of Malaysia, in addition to the massive wave of Egyptians marching up the rankings. I may be showing some home bias here, but I am also waiting to see how Gina Kennedy and Amelia Henley, both from Kent, continue their progress in the women’s game.
      There are some great coaching academies in different parts of the world. All will be producing some outstanding talent. Interestingly, many of them are operating independently, outside of national federations, which will, I am sure, add to the enormous variety of the game.
      I will write another piece on the Olympics this week, so please feel free to comment again.

  8. Perhaps we have to wait for Cairo to host the Olympics before Squash is admitted, I agree that we should remain positive, but perhaps we should step back to think and plan carefully before committing funds and resources to another campaign.

    The grass roots of squash appear to be very healthy and that is, to me, the best place to focus now. Continue to aim to increase participation levels worldwide. Encourage links with schools. Build more courts! Work hard to encourage young adults to continue playing into their 20s and 30s. So many are lost to the sport at that stage. Increase the sport’s profile with as much eye catching publicity as possible: nothing better than TOC New York, but how many New Yorkers actually knew about it? (Not many and I was there in January.)

    Take a long term view, but do not assume the IOC will come to Squash and beg us to be included. Take nothing for granted, but don’t always necessarily take the stance that the Olympics is the be all and end all. To many people its reputation is not what it should be.

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