PSA boss Alex Gough has told Sport Business website that he believes the 2020 Olympic bid is “winnable” as the sport gears up to welcome an IOC delegation to the Hong Kong Open.
Professional Squash Association (PSA) chief executive Alex Gough has stated his belief that the race for inclusion on the 2020 Olympic Games Programme is a “lot more winnable” for the sport, when compared to its previous attempts.
After the disappointment of losing out to golf and rugby sevens for a place on the Rio 2016 Programme squash authorities have been making a concerted effort to demonstrate the sport’s value to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The sport is currently showcasing itself at the Hong Kong Open, where the likes of under-court lighting, music, referee video reviews, HawkEye and in-play statistics have all been added following the IOC’s feedback in 2009.
“This is a lot more of a winnable race than it has been before,” Gough told BBC Sport. “When you look at the list of criteria that all the sports in the race have to meet, I think we are now in a position where we pretty much tick all of those boxes.”
He continued: “We have had a lot of messages from the IOC about making the sport more commercial, improving it for television and so on. A key thing is that presentation. Look at the ATP (tennis) Finals at the O2 – that is a classic example, with all that lighting and making it a really excellent spectator experience for the paying public. Those are the sorts of lessons we are trying to pick up all the time, as a sport that’s trying to be innovative and learn from bigger sports. We have really improved the sport for TV over the last two or three years. It has been a big push forward, and we are trying to improve it week after week.”
Squash is competing against a proposed joint bid from baseball and softball, along with karate, roller sports, sports climbing, wakeboard and wushu in the 2020 Games race. The sports will make presentations to the IOC Olympic Programme Commission in December and the IOC Executive Board in May, before a final decision is made in September.
Gough believes that, fundamentally, the basics of squash should make it an attractive proposition for the IOC. “At the core of squash is that the athletes are among the fittest on the planet,” he added. “They can play two-hour matches with pulse rates of 180 beats per minute for the whole time. Squash hasn’t been great at showcasing its athletes, until now. We have always had the players but they haven’t been placed in the professional-looking events that they deserve. The sport has caught up.”