Countdown to Copenhagen

Frank van Loon, VP, WSF

Squash is exactly one year away from a decision that could change the face of the sport forever. At its 121st session in Copenhagen in October 2009, the IOC will vote on whether our sport will join the program for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Squash was, of course, short-listed for consideration for the 2012 Games. But, in the equivalent vote in Singapore in 2005, we firstly succeeded in becoming the top sport of those being considered, then cruelly lost out on taking advantage of two slots left open by the exit of both baseball and softball when we failed to get a two-thirds majority vote required by the “new” sports!

Frank van Loon (R), VP of the World Squash Federation, presented Mohamed El Shorbagy with the Champions trophy at the World Junior Championships in August.
Frank van Loon (R), VP of the World Squash Federation, presented Mohamed El Shorbagy with the Champions trophy at the World Junior Championships in August.

Since then, the WSF has made significant progress in building on the achievements made in 2005. We have continued to flag up the sport’s attributes and credentials to be part of the Olympic Games, the only major multi-sport Games in which Squash is not featured.

The breakthrough came earlier this year when the IOC announced that Squash was again short-listed for 2016—but now, not only “competing” with Golf, Karate, Roller Sports and Rugby, but also Baseball and Softball, the two sports fighting to get back into the program!

The eyes of the world, we hope, will be focussed on Squash this month when Manchester hosts both the Men’s and Women’s World Opens (ed. note: at press time, the World Opens had just begun). This will be a wonderful showcase for our sport, with all of the world’s top players in action—and we have invited delegates from the IOC to attend the championships to see for themselves what the sport could offer their program.

We now have confirmation that IOC Board Member Sir Craig Reedie and Pierre Ducrey, an executive of the IOC, have accepted our invitations.

With so many players and media in Manchester during the period, we will also be hosting a reception to launch our “Countdown to Copenhagen,” at which our President Jahangir Khan will outline the key milestones in the all-important year ahead.

These will include receiving a detailed questionnaire from the IOC in December, to be completed by March 2009, following which the Olympic Program Commission will produce a report that they will present to the IOC Executive Board in June. Selected Federations will then have to submit a further presentation to the IOC Executive Board—which will result in a proposal being submitted by the Board to the IOC session in Denmark.

Sadly, Jahangir will no longer be President when the decision is announced, as he steps down after six eventful years as President at the WSF AGM in Manchester. As one of the most distinguished players the sport has known, “JK” has been a hugely-influential ambassador for the sport as President and will be sorely missed.

We welcome this opportunity to communicate with the Squash community in the USA via Squash Magazine and are most grateful to Jay Prince for this platform. So much of our success in growing the sport—and, in particular gaining a place on the Olympic Games program—will depend on the drive and leadership of our member nations, and nowhere is that more important than in North America.