Squash has suffered a blow to its hopes of a place at the Olympics after the Tokyo Olympic Games Organising Committee decided to omit it from the list of recommended sports to gain inclusion in 2020.
Players and officials alike were disappointed by the latest setback but Professional Squash Association (PSA) Chief Executive Alex Gough says the sport should remain positive despite the latest blow to any Olympic aspirations.
Squash was one of three sports initially in the running to make it to 2020 but was forced to embark on yet another period of uncertainty when wrestling was reinstated, ahead of squash and baseball/softball, only months after being dropped from the Olympic programme.
After the Tokyo Committee today recommended that surfing, karate, baseball/softball, skateboarding and climbing be included ahead of squash, Gough says the sport still has plenty to be positive about.
“The Olympic Games should be the pinnacle of any athlete’s career and inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Games would be a defining moment for squash and our athletes and to know that dream is once again out of reach is naturally a difficult proposition for the sport,” said Gough.
“But I feel we can take a lot of positives from the huge ground we have over the last decade – transitioning into a bourgeoning global sport that is now broadcast in almost 100 countries worldwide and which has witnessed increases in player earnings by over 20 per cent so far in 2015 alone.
“As a sport, squash is committed to driving forward equality, both in revenue earning potential and playing opportunities across both sexes, having already made huge strides towards parity over the past 12 months.
“Squash also has one of the cleanest drug records of any professional sport in the world and boasts a truly global footprint that many other sports cannot match. Everyone in the sport can feel truly proud of where we are.”
Squash was one of eight sports alongside baseball/softball, bowling, karate, roller sports, climbing, surfing and wushu vying for a place at the Games in the latest round of protracted lobbying following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to drop the cap on sports last year.
While Tokyo 2020’s decision not to include squash in its list of recommendations is a blow to the sport’s hopes of Olympic inclusion, a glimmer of hope still remains as the ultimate decision will be taken at the 129th IOC Session in Rio, Brazil, in August, 2016.
“Our players, who regularly cover over four kilometres per match, are amongst the fittest athletes in the world and as a sport that can be enjoyed equally at beginner level and elite, we feel that we perfectly epitomise the characteristics desired by the IOC of an Olympic sport,” added Gough.
“And as a cost-effective sport, requiring just 64 athletes across both a men’s and women’s event and with the ability to be played in any location, we would have had a limited impact on the Games’ budget and offer Tokyo the opportunity to showcase their city in a way unmatched by any other sport.
“Through three previous unsuccessful attempts to gain inclusion into the Games we have addressed all the issues and concerns the IOC have had regarding the sport and while it is difficult to accept that work will not lead to inclusion at the ultimate sporting event, we are buoyed by the strides the sport continues to take and we continue to work tirelessly to ensure the sport earns the global recognition it truly deserves.”
World Squash Federation (WSF) President N Ramachandran admitted he was 'devastated' by today's news.
“After our 12-year journey to join the Olympic Games programme, and the opportunity of a 'second chance' after the heart-break of missing out in our first 2020 bid in Buenos Aires two years ago, I am utterly devastated on behalf of our great sport that our dream of taking part in the Tokyo Games cannot now be realised,” said Ramachandran.
“I don't believe we could have done more to get our message across to both the Tokyo 2020 Games hosts and the IOC of how Squash could bring something special as an addition to the Programme.”