IOC decision on squash will be announced just before the Rio Olympics next year
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
Squash will find out next year if it is to make a debut appearance in the 2020 Olympic Games.
Following the IOC review into future structure of the Games, squash hopes to be among a small group of new sports allowed in to the Tokyo Summer Games of 2020.
A review process is currently under way and the decision will be announced next year, just before the start of the Rio Games, IOC Vice President John Coates revealed on Thursday.
Programme changes agreed by the IOC late last year resulted in a decision to bring in more sports and reduce the number of events.
The IOC say they want the Games to be relevant to spectators and sponsors, with baseball and softball, both out of the Games since Beijing in 2008, believed to be prime contenders for Tokyo.
Baseball, especially, is a popular sport in Japan. And, according to past IOC decisions which resulted in the admission of golf and rugby sevens, it would provide a commercial success thanks to sponsorship and a massive TV audience in America, where many key IOC sponsors are based.
Coates, who is in Tokyo for a review of preparations for the 2020 Games, laid out a timetable that included setting assessment criteria for proposed sports by April this year.
These findings will then go to an IOC session for a decision just before the start of the Rio Olympics in August 2016.
Coates is the current president of the Australian Olympic Committee and chairman of the Australian Olympic Foundation. He is almost certain to be present at the Commonwealth Games to be staged in Australia’s Gold Coast region in 2018, when squash will attempt to build on the phenomenal success of last year’s Games in Glasgow, when daily full-house crowds watched both singles and doubles competitions at the 2,500-seat Scotstoun venue.
Updated with statement today (Monday February 9) from the World Squash Federation
World Squash Federation President N. Ramachandran has backed the recent announcement by the International Olympic Committee to delay the decision regarding adding new sports to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games programme until next year.
“The World Squash Federation fully supports the decision by Mr John Coates, Chairman of the IOC Co-ordination Committee, to increase the time needed to complete the evaluation of the possible sport/sports that may be included in Tokyo,” said the WSF President.
“We have made it clear in our presentations that, as a potential new candidate for inclusion, Squash is ready – but we also know that if our efforts over the years are eventually successful, the extra time will be nothing!
“It has been my privilege to meet the hosts of what will be an outstanding Games in Tokyo, so time is less important than the knowledge that the flame of hope is still burning for Squash.”
US Squash chief lobbies IOC president Bach
From the US Squash website:
Kevin Klipstein met Thomas Bach at a special reception in Colorado Springs.
Taking advantage of International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach’s recent U.S. tour, US Squash CEO Kevin Klipstein visited Colorado Springs for a reception for Bach, along with a number of leaders of the National Governing Bodies, to continue to press the case for Olympic inclusion of squash.
The IOC recently announced that the timeline for considering new sports, both by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, and the IOC itself, has been shifted back.
Initially thought to be a quick process with decisions being made on adding new sports to the Olympic Program as soon as July during the IOC session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the IOC has decided to postpone decisions on new sports for the Tokyo Olympics until August 2016, during the IOC session days before the Rio Olympics begin.
While in the U.S., Bach and his IOC delegation traveled to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) headquarters after spending time in New York meeting with former President Bill Clinton, attending the Super Bowl in Arizona and watching the first day of competition at the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado.
The reception, held on Tuesday evening in Colorado Springs, just three weeks after Boston was selected as the USOC’s bid city for the summer Olympic Games in 2024, included USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, USOC Chairman Larry Probst, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Patrick was a participant and speaker during the Urban Squash Citizenship Tour last summer, and Hickenlooper is an active doubles player who participated in the Urban Doubles event last year in Denver.
“President Bach pushed some incredibly important reforms through the IOC in the last year for which I congratulated him,” said Klipstein. “The Agenda 2020 project was ambitious, and obtaining unanimous support from the full IOC speaks volumes about their desire to adapt to today’s realities in sports. I also thanked him for providing squash the opportunity to be considered, and emphasized the growth we’ve experienced here in the U.S., especially among our youth.
Regardless of the outcome for squash in 2020 or 2024, the IOC very much appears to be an organization experiencing some positive transition led by President Bach. This leaves me feeling confident that squash will at least get its fair shot at making the case for inclusion in the Games.”
The significance of the Agenda 2020 project for squash lies in the change from the Olympics being a sport-based program to one that is event-based. The twenty-eight sport cap has been dropped and will now be replaced by a cap of 310 events and 10,500 athletes. The result of this is that new sports may now have the opportunity to be added to the Olympic Program. However, to be added, existing sports would have to reduce their current number of events, which will not come easily.
In December, when the forty-point action plan in Agenda 2020 was adopted, World Squash Federation (WSF) president Narayana Ramachandran said: “My task has been to keep pushing at the Olympic Games Program door for squash. Now that I can see that a little light is coming through at the edges I am delighted of course. We remain hopeful that the changes will take us forward onto the next stage of our dream being realized at the earliest opportunity.”
Picture courtesy of US Squash