OLYMPIC GAMES

Almost from the birth of multi-sided viewing showcourts in the early 1980s, squash dreamt of securing a place on the programme of the Olympic Games. The first brochure was produced for the 1992 Barcelona edition. While it might be said that early bid presentations were limited, as often was the quality of broadcast output, as this improved so did the professionalism of the bids.
 
While squash came very close to securing a place for 2012 onwards, it was for more recent attempts that the expenditure and management really grew.
 
Here you can see background information on the failed bids, along with brochures and films that have been used as squash continues to pitch for a seat at the top table of international sport.     

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Olympic Bid Brochure 2020

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As part of the campaign to have Squash included in the programme for the 2020 Olympic Games, the WSF launched a Bid Brochure. The 48-page publication underscored Squash as an innovative and growing sport with a global reach across all five continents, attempting to highlight squash as highly dynamic, definitely athletic, global, growing and innovative too. 

Olympic Bid Failures, 2005 Onwards

World Squash Federation Chief Executive Andrew Shelley reviews the sport’s history of being passed over by the International Olympic Committee and suggests the best way forward after the latest snub.


Squash has a long and distinguished history of being snubbed when it comes to getting into the Olympics. 


At the 2005 International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting with respect to the London 2012 Games, baseball and softball were taken out, and squash was voted top of the list of sports vying for places. We were in! Then the meeting invoked a rule about a member increased vote threshold and we missed out. The two outgoing sports were not replaced.

 
Four years later, in 2009, was just after the world financial crash. Squash was beaten by golf and rugby sevens for the two vacant spots for Rio 2016, because it appeared that the IOC needed to strengthen their financial situation. 


For the next Games in 2020, IOC made a commitment to remove a sport to make way for a new one to join the programme. Wrestling was removed, only to be replaced by the ‘new’ sport of .......... wrestling! 


As we know, Tokyo won the 2020 hosting rights and prevailed upon the IOC to allow them to add host picks. They really wanted baseball and karate too – both hugely popular in Japan. This was granted, the quid pro quo seemingly being that the IOC’s choice of surfing, roller skating and wall climbing be added. 


When wrestling returned to become the ‘new’ sport, baseball and squash were the two other sports left on the IOC’s Tokyo shortlist of three – squash being the only new sport. This, it should be stressed, was the IOC shortlist, having dropped surfing, roller skating and wall climbing from it, so now they were putting in sports that they themselves had recently eliminated! 


This desire to include youth-orientated activities to enhance the urban street cred of the IOC was clear. And, as we now know, they have maintained this by insisting on these three again and adding breakdancing too for Paris. 


The two threads that are clear from this brief look backwards start with the obvious one – that the IOC own the Olympics and it is their choice to make. 


The other is that, currently, that organisation has no interest in adding an established sport that is structured, athletic, worldwide, innovative, features a flourishing professional tour etc. I should emphasise that this is not a criticism, simply that it is their Games, their choice. 


The Olympics tagline of ‘faster, stronger, higher’ has now morphed into ‘drive for youth’. 


Squash isn’t and can never be an activity such as skating or dancing, exciting though they are. Ours is an entirely different product, so where does that leave us? 


Should we take it on the chin and try again, mounting a really strong bid, again spending a great deal of money on it? Should we say never again? Or perhaps when the next round takes place for Los Angeles, should we just go through the motions and see how it pans out? 


There is also a small clamour for legal action. Against the IOC or Paris and on what grounds is not clear. That is more the province of baseball and karate, who feel a more acute sense of being shafted, having been put in for Tokyo 2020 and removed before they have had a chance to show what they would bring to the Games. 


For us, now that the rawness of the latest slap in the face is becoming less acute, we and the PSA have time to take stock and to consider the situation more dispassionately. 
What does seem to be clear is that until there are signs that the IOC may become more receptive to sports such as ours, we cannot shackle ourselves to the bidding process. 


There is little benefit in thinking about ways in which we can position ourselves to making a positive case. We and the PSA must simply concentrate on trying to ensure that the sport and the PSA Tour are flourishing. Of course, we want to secure an Olympic slot, but we will not be so fixated on a very costly and time-consuming effort for each Games. A revised perspective. 


(Article 2019 issue 1 reproduced courtesy of Squash player Magazine)  

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Squash’s presentation party to the Paris 2024 Committee (left to right): Andrew Shelley, WSF Chief Executive; Jean-Denis Barbet, French Squash Federation Squash President; Tommy Berden, PSA Chief Commercial Officer; Camille Serme, nine-time French national champion and six-time European individual champion; Jacques Fontaine, WSF President; Pablo Serna, WSF General Secretary and PSA Board Member; Victor Crouin, European junior champion; Alex Gough, PSA Chief Executive Officer 

Olympic Bid Failures: London 2012

So close for Squash at the London 2012 Olympic Games

Squash came very close to being in the London 2012 Olympic Games. This report details how the squash missed out at the IOC Session in 2005.


The Build-Up

The race for 2012 was always going to be a difficult one. Not merely due to the competition but also because of the race rules. Most notably, the Olympic Charter states that in order to include a new sport (s) to the programme, an existing one (s) must be dropped. While controversial, this rule could not be changed ahead of or in Singapore. And knowing that we could not influence the decision on existing sports, we focused on what we could impact: being # 1 in the hearts and minds of as many IOC Members as possible, in case the opportunity came up.


So WSF and our Member National Federations embarked on a mission to familiarise as many IOC Members as possible with our sport and our proposal for 2012. Looking back, we all did a good job of defining our messages and how to deliver them. And we all pulled together as one united team magnificently.

We chose to win the hearts and minds of the IOC Members by using a soft, 1-to-1 approach that has been complimented extensively. And we also received acknowledgement for the campaign materials - the Olympics presentation and DVD. But the most important reason why our build-up campaign was successful is because we have a wonderful sport that is practiced and run by a great, united family. 

 

It is because Squash delivers the goods: an intensely athletic and clean sport, role-model athletes, popularity in all continents, ever expanding professional tours, increasing levels of TV coverage and a zest for technology and innovation. It was very satisfying to confirm that Squash is widely recognized as one of the first sports to embrace the Internet. We need to remain on the forefront.

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Singapore

The hype in Singapore was extraordinary. Jahangir Khan, Susie Simcock, Nicol David, Charles Ng and Sukumaran Nair of Singapore Squash and myself were there throughout the whole 117th IOC Session.


Singapore Squash capitalised on the opportunity and arranged a never-ending series of interviews to further expose our case. Jahangir Khan and Nicol David did at least two interviews per day from July 5th to July 8th with wide coverage on the main newspapers including the Straits Times - delivered to the door of every IOC Member!


Undoubtedly the highlight of our campaign in Singapore was on July 6th. The official Opening Ceremony of the 117th IOC Session started at 7:30PM. After the initial speeches by Mr. Rogge and the Organising Committee, Channel News Asia, which was transmitting live to over 20 countries, switched to a live interview in which Jahangir Khan discussed our case. We had the very best prime time and to add the icing on the cake, a public survey on which sport (of the five) should be included in the 2012 Olympic Games showed Squash on top with 47% of the votes!


With London having won the race for Host City and supporting Squash’s inclusion full on our chances looked good. To then see not one but two openings become available surely meant that changes to the programme were inevitable. And when the race was on for those two spots (and all of Squash’s hard work over the past few years was put to the test), Squash came out on top! 


Squash was effectively voted into the London 2012 Olympic Games ahead of Karate while Rugby 7s, Roller Sports and Golf were eliminated in earlier rounds of the voting.


With Mr. Rogge pushing for new sports to replace the ones that had been excluded our chances now looked extremely good. Mr. Rogge requested a show of hands to quickly confirm Squash and Karate as Olympic sports and thus thrust us into the programme but the overwhelming negative from the floor indicated that something was not quite right.


The last hurdle proved to be insurmountable. According to the Olympic Charter, a new candidate sport must obtain 2/3 of the vote to be recognised as an Olympic sport. And this we failed to achieve by a significant margin. We needed 70 of the 105 total possible votes with abstentions and invalid ballots counting as “no”. Squash obtained 39 votes in favour with 63 against and 3 abstentions while Karate had 38 in favour, 63 against, 3 abstentions and 1 invalid ballot.


So why did we fail to get even close? On the one hand, the target is unrealistic and the IOC recognises this problem. No sooner the results were in and President Rogge was already talking about lowering the benchmark to simple majority – as is required of Olympic sports. We will of course push for this change in the Charter so that the playing field is level next time around.


On the other hand, the atmosphere in Singapore was not conducive to change. While most IOC Members will say that change is good, 2012 was judged as too early for changes to the sports programme. “You don’t change a winning team” was a recurring theme in the back corridors. Also, as soon as Baseball and Softball were excluded, we had to contend with two unofficial participants in the race. And this we never planned for. To put it bluntly, many IOC Members decided that no sports should have been dropped and that therefore the vacant spots should remain as such.


Lets also face the fact that despite our efforts, most IOC Members know Olympic sports far better than they do any non-Olympic sport. It is only logical after attending so many Olympic Games and working with the Olympic International Federations for such a long time.


So we should all be disappointed and not to try again, right? Wrong!

Squash For The Olympics 1992

As part of the campaign to have Squash included in the programme for the 2020 Olympic Games, the WSF launched a Bid Brochure. The 48-page publication underscored Squash as an innovative and growing sport with a global reach across all five continents, attempting to highlight squash as highly dynamic, definitely athletic, global, growing and innovative too. 

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