Baseball tops the list as five new sports are chosen, but squash bid fails again
By ALAN THATCHER
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.
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.”
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.”