Will the World Squash Federation be third time lucky in its bid to get squash into the Olympics?
As the D-day nears there is excitement and anxiety in equal measure as the squash fraternity the world over awaits the decision of the International Olympic Committee executive board when the WSF makes its presentation before it on May 29 in St. Petersburg in Russia.
The Board is expected to recommend one or more sport for consideration to the IOC congress which will take the final decision in September in Rio de Janeiro as to which sport will make it to the 2020 Games.
In 2005 and in 2009, despite WSF working overtime to lobby for the sport, squash could not make the breakthrough.
In 2005 IOC decided not to have any new sport, while in 2009 rugby and golf gained inclusion for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
WSF president N. Ramachandran, speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday, said as far as the Federation was concerned, no stone had been left unturned in its efforts this time.
“We have had the experience of the previous two occasions, taken the advice of IOC and we believe we have met every bit of what has been asked for. In short we have turned the sport on its head to give it a totally refreshing perspective,” he said.
Mr. Ramachandran said the key changes the sport had undergone included use of glass courts, installation of high resolution cameras for referee review system (like in cricket), new scoring system and state-of-the-art television coverage by a dedicated SquashTV unit.
Most of all, the WSF president said, “the sport, unlike many others, is inexpensive to conduct, with just 64 players and 20 officials involved and courts that can easily be set up anywhere,” he said.
While WSF is now working on its strategy, even making a short film for presentation, Mr Ramachandran, who will head the delegation, did not seemly unduly perturbed over the fact that on the same day (May 29) not only the other bidders — baseball/softball, roller sports, sport climbing, wake boarding, karate and wushu — but also wrestling, which had been dropped, will also be making an effort.
Considering the backlash that triggered the ouster of wrestling, the sport has the advantage of a big section in the IOC to help it make a comeback.
But Mr Ramachandran sounded philosophical when he said, “My job is to promote squash and I believe we have done our bit. We have met all the norms IOC has stipulated.”
Ultimately, as the Indian official, put it, there is always the satisfaction of being associated with a sport that has been totally transformed from what it was a few years ago.
Today squash is global, has been winning support from various sections of the sporting community and that included even a tennis legend like Roger Federer, he added.