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Squash and the Olympics, Will the racquet sport ever be on the world’s biggest stage?

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Squash is not an Olympic sport. The World Squash Federation (WSF) is recognised by the International Olympic Committee, but its 2024 Olympic bid was foiled by others such as skateboarding, surfing and even breakdancing.

While approximately 20 million people worldwide play squash, the racket sport has struggled to grow in popularity despite it being one of the best sports for cardiovascular health and hand and eye coordination, as well as being playable all year round by all ages.

Many credit this popularity struggle with squash being absent from the Summer Olympic Games. The sport has been rejected from the Paris 2024 Games and previous applications. Although there are other prominent tournaments, such as the 2022 World Squash Federation’s doubles squash championships which are being hosted in Glasgow this month, they lack the strong exposure the Olympics gives.

Legendary squash player Jahangir Khan, former world no.1 and owner of six World Open titles and ten British Open titles, has expressed his disbelief at decisions to exclude it from the Games.

Speaking in the past to The Sun, he has claimed that it is ‘ridiculous’ that squash is still not considered for The Olympics.

“Squash is so different now from the 70s and 80s. We have new technology, better courts and better television coverage.

“We have improved in every way and the countries we cover are more than most other sports. I’m not sure there is even a proper circuit for skateboarding and breakdancing, for example.”

“We have been running bids for so many years and these sports weren’t in the queue and now they are. It’s really hard to understand.”

However, there is a strict criteria for a sport to be considered for the Olympics.

Firstly, it needs to be recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee and managed by a governing body so that the sport can gain International Sports Federation Status. The World Squash Federation has achieved this status, so qualifies for the Olympics. The body is responsible for enforcing Olympic rules such as the Anti-Doping Code.

Olympic sports must also be widely practised. For men, this is a minimum of 75 countries and four continents. For women, this is at least 40 countries and three continents. Squash easily meets this with more than 20 million squash players in 185 countries around the globe.

There are other ethical, funding and coverage rules sports must abide by in the Olympics Charter, all of which squash can meet. Sports must also improve the “value and appeal” of the Olympic Games and “retain and reflect” its modern traditions. Each year’s committee also looks for certain aspects, whether it be urban or youth appeal.

Finally, it comes down to a vote from the International Olympic Committee members. All sports that meet the criteria can put forward an application for the next Games, and this is decided on ahead of time.

A common argument is that squash is difficult to spectate, yet recent years have proved that this is changing. In the 2014 Commonwealth Games final over one million people tuned in to BBC1. Additionally, the World Squash Federation claims that courts can be built within 25 hours to host 5000 people in 6000 square metres.

Squash may not have made the cut for 2024, but perhaps there are still hopes for 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics participation.

Featured image credit – Sport First

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