By Jay D. Prince
Last month, I was hopeful that squash would be celebrating the International Olympic Committee vote that would be moving our sport one step closer to the 2016 Olympics. Uh…not so much.
Squash needed life-support as soon as the voting began, as our sport was quickly eliminated from consideration. And after the IOC chose golf and rugby sevens, one thing became crystal clear: The Olympics is now all about money! Perhaps some will think me naïve to have expected something else, but my ideals had been hoping for something much more, shall we say, honorable.
To be honest, I’m pretty sick of squash being led along by an Olympic leash, jumping through hoops that are, in reality, rings of ﬁre. There are lots of people out there who have held the belief that too much of squash’s resources have been being put toward an Olympic pipe dream. I guess those people were right in the end. Given the results of the voting, it seems to me the IOC would have done squash a much more useful service by simply saying, “Look, your sport won’t be bringing millions of dollars to our party, so go away until you can.” But enough of my thoughts on this. Here are some comments from players and executives in the sport:
Julian Illingworth: Obviously disappointing for squash as a whole not making the Olympics for 2016. It would have certainly given squash a breakthrough in elite funding as well as being a great boost in the way our sport is perceived by the outside world, as well as how sponsors look at the sport. I would have been 32 in 2016 so a little old but clearly it would have been a great goal to train for and hold out until. So personally it is frustrating to know the Olympics is not a realistic dream for me any longer, unless I take up Curling or Skeleton after squash.
Alex Gough (CEO of PSA): The IOC Executive Board’s decision not to put Squash forward as one of the two sports for consideration by the IOC Congress is obviously a massive disappointment. In hindsight the decision can be viewed as a purely commercial one and one in which we would have always found it hard to compete. That said, I am very proud of what the ‘Squash Family’ was able to achieve in the ﬁnal eight months of the campaign. The whole sport became galvanized behind the efforts of WSF. There was a lot of catching up to do on the other sports and despite the apparent voting numbers I feel we sold ourselves in a very positive way. Our sport is second to none when it comes to the criteria that the IOC set out and the feedback from many arenas, prior to the vote, was that Squash should be in the Olympic program for 2016. It is just unfortunate the IOC Executive Board were not in agreement with public sentiment.
Andrew Shelley (Executive Director of WISPA): The Olympic Games are a business. We cannot compete with income options that sports such as rugby and golf can offer. But we tick all the boxes that are the pronounced ethos of the Olympic games so we must continue to enjoy and grow our great sport and hope that our credentials bring us back into consideration when the Olympics revert to sports where the Games will be the pinnacle for their players.
James Willstrop: Well I was very disappointed with the decision, as everyone else involved in squash was. After all the build up and the work everyone has done it was very upsetting to be cast aside yet again by the IOC, without any form of explanation or intimation as to the direction we need to be going.
And of course, to see golf getting in seemed to suggest that the IOC went for the big stars (who probably won’t show, because of course it won’t be their pinnacle), the big money and the big proﬁle. This appears to not reflect the Olympic ethos that has in the past, quite rightly, included sports such as archery, shooting and bmx. So very very predictable I would say...
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