By Kevin Klipstein
The opportunity to see the best in our sport duly recognized on the world stage by being able to compete alongside the best in every other sport would be something that everyone involved with squash would cherish.
As squash lovers, we have been frustrated and confused for a very long time by the fact that our elite athletes, and our incredible sport, with its rich history and played by millions worldwide, has not yet found its way into the Olympic Games.
These sentiments were amplified for me recently as the world’s best competed live in front of me at the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open.
I am not necessarily a pro squash fanatic, however the professionals always find a way to amaze me, and so does the passion, condition and determination of these elite athletes…watching Nicol David dig out of a 0-6 fifth game deficit by winning ten points in a row in her semifinal match after having lost a 2-0 game lead served as testament. This was an effort worthy of the Olympic stage if ever I have seen one.
The United States has the fastest growing squash participation level of any country worldwide—the most recent data from the Sporting Good Manufacturers Association shows a remarkable growth of 82% between 2007 and 2011 to an estimated 1.2 million players nationally. Our inclusion in the Olympics would obviously have a massive positive impact on our ability to continue this growth by elevating recognition of our sport here and worldwide.
Growth and innovation are key focuses of U.S. Squash right now as we strive to make squash more broadly accessible to play and watch, and as we promote it to those who aren’t familiar with the sport.
One of the most recent innovations at U.S. Squash has been the launch of our new website, which features easier navigation, more in-depth coverage, and sets the stage for our ability to deliver more benefits to members. With the significant increase in membership in recent years, and the high levels of traffic that the site experiences (it is the most visited national squash website in the world), the new site has created a modern platform for our expanding community to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates, rankings, events and program information. Several mobile apps will follow in 2013.
The broader world of squash also continues forward with innovations and technology enhancements to demonstrate our evolution and Olympic worthiness to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As I write this, Olympic assessors are conducting an inspection visit to the Hong Kong Open, where a brand new court complete with the latest technology in glass construction and cutting-edge audiovisual and broadcast technology is being showcased. Next month, the World Squash Federation will make a formal, and extremely professional, presentation to the IOC Programme Commission to hopefully cement our case.
Since squash successfully made the shortlist of sports to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics, squash players and fans from the United States and across the globe have united to ‘Back the Bid’ and prove the Olympic worthiness of our beloved sport to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). We now all look with hope towards the imminent arrival of the International Olympic Committee’s decision next year.
Whatever the outcome, it is clear that this effort has brought out the best in our international community of over 25,000,000 dedicated squash players, hailing from 185 countries across the globe, who have banded together to support our Olympic pursuit. We have been deeply united through our passion for our sport and our global quest to have it recognized on the world stage.
At best, not only will we have intensified our relationships, and generated broader awareness and growth for our sport, but we will also have the joy and pride of witnessing the result of these efforts should our elite athletes get to compete beside the rest of the world’s best in 2020.