Skateboarding, sport climbing, karate, baseball and surfing – all sports given the go-ahead for the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo. Not on the list, though, is squash, a racket sport that has been denied Olympic status for over a decade. So why have seemingly minor sports been prioritised over a game played by over 20 million people in 185 countries, all over the world?
On the face of it, squash seems like an ideal addition to the Olympic proceedings seeing as courts can be built anywhere – they have even had matches in front of the pyramids in Egypt! In 2003, American magazine Forbes even voted it the world’s healthiest sport. This is not surprising since squash is played in short but intense games, normally lasting from 30-45 minutes with a short break in between sets.
In the past critics have said that squash does not televise well and is only enjoyable to watch live, which formed part of the reason why it was not allowed to form part of the Games. However, new technology means that cameras can be put inside the court and viewers can watch the match clearly, from exciting angles. Another argument that was used was that certain countries dominate the rankings and always produce the best players – Egypt being a prime example. It is true that many of the top players are Egyptian, Mohamed Elshorbagy for example who is the world number one, as well as five others in the top ten.
Whilst this may seem a little one-sided, every continent has produced a world champion and so squash would give more countries the opportunity to win medals.
Part of the problem also seems to be that the host nation picks which new sports will be included and since Japan does not have a strong tradition of squash players, it was no surprise that they rejected the bid. There is still hope though that countries like Egypt and Malaysia, where squash is very popular, may host the Games in the future and choose to include it.
There is always next time though – so bring on 2024!
Is there another sport that you think should be in the Olympic Games?