Squash hopes for preliminary Olympic nod at May 29 IOC meeting
New Delhi: After twice failing to get the nod from the International Olympic Committee, the squash world is hoping that the IOC, at its meeeting in St. Petersburg on May 29, will shortlist the racquet sport for the 2020 Games.
The final call on the one available spot will take place at the full IOC session in Argentina in September.
Karate and wrestling are also expected to make the shortlist, with softball/baseball, sport climbing, wakeboarding, wushu and roller sports likely to miss out this time.
World Squash Federation (WSF) CEO Andrew Shelley hopes the sport will be third time lucky. One major plus for squash is that it has been a regular at multi-discipline events like the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games since 1998 and the Pan-American Games from 1995.
"This is our third bid, and with the great steps forward we made in terms of innovation and broadcasting, we really feel squash would be a positive addition to the Olympics," says Shelley.
Shelly felt he has reason to be optimistic after the unprecedented support squash received from international sporting greats, among them tennis icons Roger Federer, Andre Agassi and Stefan Edberg and legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.
"The quality of squash broadcasts is now up there with the best of sports. Instead of using host broadcasters at major events, there is the fly-away set up that travels to major Tour events to ensure quality and consistency. Coupled with that are great innovations in showcourt design and event presentation to make the Olympic bid truly impressive," Shelley said.
Glass court matches are organised at iconic venues like the pyramids in Egypt and New York`s Grand Central Terminal.
Former World No.1 Peter Nicol and his fellow-Briton Tim Garner found a novel way to back the Olympic bid by playing seven games in seven days across seven continents.
Alex Gough, CEO of the governing body for the men`s professional circuit PSA, sees the current bid stronger than the unsuccessful ones for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
"Squash`s bid this time around has been far superior to our earlier bids. The sport is now presenting itself in a much more appealing manner with the quality of our broadcasts improving all the time. It is much more consistent than what it was earlier," said Gough.
However, both Shelley and Gough were not too worried about the competition from other disciplines.
"Every sport on the shortlist has its strengths, otherwise it would not be there. We must simply make our case stronger," said Shelley referring to the stiff competition from wrestling, which will make its case for reinstatement after being dropped from the Olympic programme earlier in the year.
Gough added, "It is difficult to predict the result after we present again in May as other sports will all be doing the best that they can."