Squash Leads on ‘Innovation’ in Bid Presentation

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Following the presentation, were: (L to R) Andrew Shelley, Reyna Pacheco, President Ramachandran and James Willstrop.

On December 19, the World Squash Federation (WSF) presented its case for Squash to be included in the 2020 Olympic Games to the International Olympic Committee’s Programme Commission. The WSF delegation was led by its President N Ramachandran, and featured men’s World No. 1 James Willstrop, WSF Chief Executive Andrew Shelley, and junior player Reyna Pacheco.

President Ramachandran said: “Our presentation set out to show that squash has been on a journey of innovation over recent years. Developments such as state-of-the-art all glass courts, under floor lighting, referee video review, side court entrances, and improved in-venue presentation have all led to a dramatic change in the broadcast and fan experience.

“We also stressed the global reach and appeal of the sport. All five continents have produced both male and female world champions, and the current women’s top 20 features players from 12 countries spread across every continent. There can be no doubt that if squash were to be included in the Olympic Games Program it would provide more countries with a chance to be on the medal podium.

The WSF also unveiled its Squash 2020 bid film, which captures the excitement and recent innovations in the sport, and what Squash would bring to the Olympic Games. Featuring two of the game’s most exciting players—Malaysia’s Nicol David, who recently won her record seventh world title, and Egypt’s Ramy Ashour, the newly-crowned men’s world champion—the film was one of three shown as part of the WSF presentation to the IOC Programme Commission.

James Willstrop said: “Squash represents the essence of Olympic sport. It’s gladiatorial given that we are the only racquet sport where players share the same space, and to excel requires a mix of mental strategy, skill, athleticism and fitness. In the past few seasons there has been a revolution in the way squash is presented to spectators. MCs, music and lighting have really helped to get the fans involved—and that’s great for players.

“I’m 29 years old so my dream to compete in the Olympic Games may never be realized, but if I can play a part in helping squash become part of the Olympic Program, I could retire a happy man.”

One of the highlights of the presentation was the story of Reyna Pacheco and how squash has helped change her life.

Pacheco, who was born in Mexico, now lives in the United States and became the highest ranked Urban player in US Squash, added: “My mother brought my older brother and myself to the United States when I was four. I grew up with very little at home, and I didn’t believe there was much I could achieve. My life was completely transformed when Squash was introduced to me.

“Squash hasn’t just turned my life around—it probably saved my life. It inspired something in me that created a whole new path for me and recently led to me being awarded a scholarship from the Bill Gates Foundation to attend Columbia University. Perhaps one day I may even be able to realize my dream and share my story with the world as an Olympian in the 2020 Games.”

Highlighting the technical qualities of squash, WSF CEO Andrew Shelley said: “The format we have proposed to the IOC Program Commission is Men’s and Women’s Singles Championships involving 32 male and 32 female players. Matches would take place on two state-of-the art all glass courts, each with a capacity of up to 4,000 spectators, utilizing steep seating to create a really strong arena effect and great atmosphere. Squash would be easy and low cost to integrate into the Olympic Games, with just 64 athletes, two competition courts that can be built in a matter of days, and only 20 officials.”

To view two of the WSF bid films—the main film ‘Squash Olympic Bid’, and a YouTube-style film ‘Ends Of The Earth’ that shows squash players from around the world backing the Squash2020 bid—visit www.worldsquash.org, and click on the link.