From US Squash Olympic Efforts

By Kevin Klipstein

Since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote on the 2012 Olympic Program during the summer of 2005, little has been heard or said about squash and the Olympics. You may recall the 100+ member IOC nearly, but not quite, voted squash into the Olympics after de-selecting baseball and softball for the 2012 Program.

With the recent announcement by the US Olympic Committee (USOC) that Chicago will be the only US city to submit a bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, another chapter of our seemingly endless quest begins. So what does this announcement have to do with the possibility for squash to finally be an Olympic sport? Nothing and perhaps everything.

Venue and sport selections are unrelated. However, during the same meeting in 2005, the IOC also selected London as the host city for the 2012 Games. With this vote, in advance of the Olympic Program vote, optimism for squash exploded with the thinking being: England, the birthplace for squash, would be too perfect to pass up as the venue to launch our Olympic career. I shouldn’t need to remind you of the outcome.

I am frequently asked what we are doing to help get squash into the Olympics, and what the chances are for the sport. The straight answer is, the US has three IOC members and our role is to make sure they are fully aware of the greatness of squash, and then our chances are quite good. Of course, there is absolutely no real way to determine our chances with the decision exclusively in the hands of a notoriously whimsical and political body.

What we can say is that squash fits incredibly well into the simple criteria the IOC uses to evaluate sports for entry into the Program. Being rated the No. 1 healthiest sport by Forbes Magazine, with the Olympics considered by the top athletes in the sport to be the pinnacle of the game, the possibility to place the competition and court in iconic locations, with squash played in 150 countries by 15 million people, one can easily make a great case for the sport. However, reading between the lines of the Olympic playbook, any sport able to prove its commercial value will have an advantage. The entire Olympic model is based on multi-billion dollar television contracts, but without reach and appeal, any sport seeking first-time inclusion will have an uphill battle. And let’s face it, there is no more valuable media market than the one right here in the US.

Which brings us back to Chicago, the third largest city in the US and one which is by all measures a great squash city, a diverse community with a rich history of hosting national championships, downtown clubs both public and private, strong programs in the suburbs, host to the largest prize money men’s pro event in North America, a new urban squash and education program in METROsquash and a visionary program at Lake Forest Recreation Center.

The Chicago squash community is also doing their part by rallying around METROsquash as they pursue an ambitious fundraising event and promotion at The Field Museum of Natural History, “METROsquash with Sue,” on October 11 and 12. The event is named after the famous Sue, the largest preserved tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered, which serves as the central image for the museum. A glass court will be placed next to Sue in the main hall as the world’s top players compete for the 2007 U.S. Pro Series title, and over 1,000 Chicago Public School students will learn about squash for the very first time. The entire Chicago community will also see the sport in a way it never has before: as accessible entertainment on TV.

It is this type of effort that will begin to raise the profile of the sport in the US, drive demand for access to courts and have the impact we need to truly place squash on the IOC’s radar. In reality, healthy grassroots growth of the sport combined with high level awareness and appeal are the two things that will matter most. With Chicago now obsessed with their Olympic prospects, the timing could not be better, so let’s work together to make sure “METROsquash with Sue” is a success, and that it helps lift squash out of the Cretaceous Period and into the Olympic Era. For more information and to show your support, visit .