Very recently the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted provisional recognition as sports to the martial art Muaythai and to Cheerleading. They join a long list of sports that have achieved recognition from the IOC, ranging from Baseball to Bridge, to Tug-Of-War. The carefree way in which they grant Olympic recognition of a sport is at odds with their continued undeserved denial of a place at the Summer Games for Squash.
While its cousin sports Badminton and Tennis have a long history of inclusion at the Games, determined campaigning has been to no avail for Squash. The sport narrowly missed out on London 2012, Rio 2016 saw Golf and Rugby Sevens chosen instead and in spite of six new sports being granted a place at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Squash will not be present.
Squash is not like Cheerleading or Orienteering, in that some may question whether it really merits IOC recognition as a ‘sport’ due to lacking the historical significance, or being more a form of highly skilful competitive entertainment. If Squash was granted Olympic status, the IOC would be in no danger of making the Olympics increasingly similar to Monty Python’s ‘Silly Olympics’ sketch .
The sport has a long history, founded in 1830, and a wide reach – the specialized courts on which it is played can be found in 188 countries across the world and eight different countries and one territory are currently represented in the top 20 Women’s Squash World Rankings. Additionally it is a sport with strong representation on both male and female sides of the game, something that is notable considering the IOC’s successful push in recent times to have male and female medal competitions for sports represented at the Olympics.
From a British perspective, it would also provide a strong chance to medal considering that England is one of the two most successful nations in the sport’s history, the other being Egypt.
Seemingly every Olympics in recent times has seen at least one new sport included. If within seven years of provisional recognition as a sport Cheerleading can apply for permanent inclusion at the Olympics, then Squash, represented at both the Commonwealth and Asian Games since 1998, should be included. Unlike Tennis with its grand slam opens, or more recently, Golf with the Masters and UK Open, if included at the Olympics winning a medal would be the pinnacle of Squash players’ careers, not a mere sideshow.
To this writer, who should add that he has never ever played Squash, has barely any understanding of the rules, and has only watched it once on TV during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, let alone live, the IOC fundamentally has its priorities wrong if it places providing funding to less traditional sports, such as Cheerleading, Ten-Pin Bowling and Tug-Of-War, over the long overdue inclusion at the Summer Olympic Games of the widespread, popular sport of Squash.