Monday, October 16, 2023

Cricket finally makes 'historic' comeback to Olympics, will feature in LA28 games

IOC also approves inclusion of four other games namely baseball/softball, flag football, squash and lacrosse

Representational image of ICC Mens World Cup Champions England and Womens World Cup Champions Australia with the LA28 logo. — ICC
Representational image of ICC Men's World Cup Champions England and Women's World Cup Champions Australia with the LA28 logo. — ICC

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday, approving the inclusion of cricket in the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 (LA28), paved the way for the sport to make its historic comeback to the Olympics after more than a century.

It is pertinent to know that much less known to the public, cricket has actually been part of the Olympics when England took on France in a "one-off" match in Paris with the former winning the gold back in 1900.

The IOC — choosing cricket's shortest T20 format — also gave a nod for the inclusion of baseball/softball, flag football, squash and lacrosse for the 2028 games scheduled to be held in the United States.

The IOC´s executive board last week accepted a proposal by LA organisers for the five sports to be included.

During Monday's IOC session, only two delegates at the session voted against the new sports.

Organisers have proposed a six-team event, in both men´s and women´s sports.

The United States is set to field sides as the host nation, but no firm decision has been made on the number of teams, or how they will qualify.

It would tap into the lucrative South Asian market, attracting fans in countries such as India and Pakistan.

The Indian Premier League, featuring cricket´s global stars, has helped India become the unquestioned economic driving force of the sport, thanks to legions of fans and lucrative broadcasting deals in a nation where the game is almost a religion.

Meanwhile, Major League Cricket, a professional T20 League, launched in the United States in July, with the US as the co-host of next year´s men´s T20 World Cup together with territories in the West Indies.

"It´s a win-win situation," International Cricket Council chairman Greg Barclay told reporters in Mumbai, of cricket´s inclusion in the LA 2028 programme.

"We´ve got a global sport, what I think is the fastest-growing global sport, but getting onto the biggest sporting stage in the world, the Olympics, is a massive shot in the arm for the game."

2.5 billion fans

Explaining the push for cricket´s inclusion, Los Angeles 2028 chairman Casey Wasserman, said: "It´s a sport that is incredibly popular around the world, it´s growing in the United States. The diaspora in the US is growing and engaged and exciting.

"We think the opportunity to bring a sport that has 2.5 billion rabid fans to what we think is the greatest sports city in the world, it´s a really powerful combination."

IOC president Thomas Bach said the five new sports´ additions would "showcase iconic American sports to the world while bringing international sports to the United States".

Among the newly included US sports is flag football -- a limited-contact form of American football.

Pierre Trochet, president of the International Federation of American Football, said its place on the programme would "offer an exciting new dimension to the Games -- uniting them, for the first time in history, with America´s number-one sport in its youngest, most accessible and inclusive format".

Monday´s vote also saw the racquet sport of squash finally make it onto an Olympic programme after several failed attempts.

Zena Wooldridge, president of the World Squash Federation, said the game is an "amazingly dynamic, diverse and demanding sport that is perfectly suited for the Olympic Games".

But the IOC said Monday the status of boxing at the 2028 Games remains "on hold" after it stripped the International Boxing Association (IBA) of its recognition following a dispute over how the sport is governed.