Olympics-Squash is economical choice for 2016 inclusion

By Kylie MacLellan


LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) – Squash should be accepted into the 2016 Olympic programme because the sport is economical to host, the president of squash’s world governing body said.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will decide in October whether to introduce up to two new sports for the 2016 Games, with squash competing against rugby, karate, roller sports, golf, baseball and softball for a place.


“We are economical both in terms of money, time and infrastructure,” N Ramachandran, president of the World Squash Federation (WSF), told Reuters on Monday. “We are portable, we can share facilities and we don’t add a lot of athlete numbers.”


The WSF have agreed to donate to the host city the portable glass courts that would be used for the games, meaning no investment in permanent facilities would be needed.


“The IOC doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” he added. “They’re very sensible people who are looking round the world at the moment thinking lavish overspending is not part of anyone’s agenda so if we can do stuff in a restrained and sensible matter then that’s what we should do.”


The IOC voted to remove baseball and softball from the Olympic programme for London 2012, leaving the games with 26 sports, two short of the maximum allowed by the Olympic Charter.


Despite emerging as a frontrunner, squash — which has never been an Olympic sport — narrowly missed out on its bid to be included in the 2012 games after it failed to get the two thirds majority of votes needed.


Former world number one Peter Nicol said squash could give the Olympic movement a boost in countries such as Malaysia, which has never won an Olympic gold but has produced several top squash players, including women’s world number one Nicol David.


“We have a unique demographic of professional players,” said Nicol. “Within the top 16 men and women there are 13 different nationalities. We can bring the Olympics to new markets.”


Squash has traditionally struggled to attract publicity and television coverage, and is trying to update public perceptions of the sport and attract younger players and audiences.


The WSF’s Ramachandran said inclusion would raise the profile of the sport as a whole, providing a boost to squash at grassroots level as well as athletes at the top of their game.


“As an Olympic sport governments across the world tend to take you a bit more seriously,” he said.


“When you start to get a government to take your sport seriously it’s not just about funding, it’s about the focus that you get on facilities, on education programmes, community groups and just general grassroots development.”


(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)


About Cyrus Poncha
I was born and lived in Bombay before moving to Chennai in 2001 to coach the Indian national squash team....what a journey its been!!

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