Squash and the Olympics

By Avi M. ’20

Two weeks of pure sports, international competition, and gold medals. One of the biggest events in the world. The Olympics are the most highly anticipated sporting event across the world, and even in times of strife have brought the world together through competition. In the last few years, squash — the sport, not the vegetable — has made repeated pushes to be included in the Summer Olympics, only to have it passed upon for the 2012, 2016, 2020, and 2024 games.

Climbing, skateboarding, and surfing will debut in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and those along with breakdancing have been proposed by Paris for 2024. Yet, squash did not make the cut. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is the fact that squash provides far fewer financial gains for the Olympics than other sports that have been included in the past. For instance, rugby, golf, and karate were all recently added to the games, and the three of them have far larger followings and command far larger revenues than squash. The International Olympics Committee’s repeated decisions to exclude squash have also hinged on their belief that it would be hard for viewers to see the ball, especially those watching on television. However, the World Squash Federation (WSF) has made large investments in SquashTV, which has led to improved cameras and courts which make it easier for viewers to follow the match, solving this problem.

Squash currently has over 20 million players worldwide with large followings in the USA, Egypt, and the UK. Despite this relatively small number  compared to other more well-known Olympic sports, squash still has a real global following. There are professional squash players from around 75 countries, and tournaments have been held in almost 50. Squash has already been included in other multinational sporting events such as the Commonwealth and the Pan American Games with events such as singles, doubles, a team tournament, and mixed doubles all being included. These events, which are similar to those found in Olympic tennis, could easily be translated to the Olympics under the proposed 32 player draws, which would present a high and entertaining level of sport.

Even though squash does not command a very large following or revenue, the sport still holds value for the Olympics as a fast growing sport with a global following. When compared to the newly admitted sports, squash commands a similar global following, especially at the professional level, where other Olympic sports like skating, for example, do not have an international governing body. Therefore, if the IOC’s goal is to showcase the highest level of athletics in the world, then there is no reason that squash should continue to be excluded from the Olympics.

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