Squash, baseball/softball and wrestling shortlisted as potential sports for 2020 Olympics
Vote to be held by International Olympic Committee in Argentina in early September
Winning candidate will be added to the 25 core sports, plus golf and rugby sevens
IOC president Jacques Rogge impressed with presentations for final remaining place
Squash, the bridesmaid of racquet sports, will hope to finally recognize its Olympic dream after winning a place on the shortlist of candidates to be included at the 2020 Games.
While tennis, table tennis and badminton have long been on the Olympic agenda, squash has failed to impress the International Olympic Committee during its previous attempts, with campaigns to be included at London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 falling on deaf ears.
But Wednesday’s announcement by the IOC means it, along with wrestling and the combined baseball/softball bid, will have the chance of securing the one final place in September’s vote.
There is the offer of a reprieve for wrestling, which was dropped from the program in February, while baseball and softball were axed after the 2008 Games but have since streamlined their competitions in order to win back favor.
Wrestling had long been considered an iconic Olympic sport having been part of the Games since its inception in 1896 and missing out just once – at Paris in 1900.
Both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling had been mainstays of the Olympics, but this year’s shock decision led to the sport’s chief Raphael Martinetti resigning as President of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles.
Golf and rugby sevens are two new sports to be included at Rio next year and squash is now hoping it will finally make its debut in 2020.
“This is a great day for squash as it takes us one step closer to realizing our long-held ambition to join the Olympic Games,” Malaysia’s seven-time world champion Nicol David said in a statement following the announcement.
“I said to the (IOC) Executive Board that the one big regret in my career is that I have never had the chance to compete in the Olympic Games, but I would happily trade all my seven world titles for the chance of Olympic gold.
“Hopefully that showed what competing in the Games means to me. It was a true honor to play a part in our presentation and I will do everything I can as we head towards Buenos Aires to help our campaign.”
Squash will now hope to succeed where the likes of wushu, wakeboarding, roller sports, karate and sport climbing failed, missing out on contention for consideration.
The sport has tried to make itself more attractive to the IOC, using all-glass courts, video review systems and a white ball to help make it more spectator-friendly.
“Squash would grow all over the world with the Olympic Movement,” World Squash Federation President N. Ramachandran said in a statement. “We are a growing, global sport played in 185 countries by millions across the world.
“We offer the genuine prospect of new nations on the medal podium. We would be easy and low cost to integrate into the Olympic Games with just 64 athletes, two competition courts that can be built in days and we have a great track record of being hosted in iconic locations.
“I think all these elements were important considerations for the IOC Executive Board. It is critical now that we build further momentum and support ahead of the IOC member vote in Buenos Aires on September 8, and this is what the global squash family is completely focused on.”
The IOC uses 39 criteria to decide which sports make it through to the Games, with categories such as popularity, good governance and respect for the Olympic values all taken into consideration.
IOC president Jacques Rogge, who is set to step down in September following a 12-year term, told reporters he was impressed with the presentations put before the 14 board members.
“The Executive Board received excellent presentations today from eight International Federations,” he said.
“It was never going to be an easy decision but I feel my colleagues on the board made a good decision in selecting baseball/softball, squash and wrestling to be put forward in Buenos Aires.
“I wish the three shortlisted sports the best of luck in the run-up to the vote in September and would like to thank the other sports for their hard work and dedication.”