Having only just been through an Olympic bid campaign, you could forgive squash if they decided to sit out this race. World Squash Federation president N Ramachandran tells us why they are coming back for more.
Squash thought it had done everything right to win Olympic glory last time around.
As part of its 2013 campaign for inclusion on the 2020 programme, the WSF ticked all the boxes that an aspiring member of the Olympic Family should: total revamp of its broadcast and marketing services, check; employ a well-known PR advisor (Vero Communications) for the bid, check; promote a dynamic female champion as a figurehead of the bid, check.
But no matter how hard world number one Nicol David or Vero worked, they could not do anything about wrestling’s turnaround that meant none of the original shortlisted bidders for 2020 inclusion got the nod.
This time around, the WSF is hoping to draw upon the foundations laid in the 2013 bid in order to push them over the finishing line this time around.
“We believe that squash will bring added value to the Games in many ways,” N Ramachandran told SportBusiness International.
“Squash is a wonderfully gladiatorial sport that is played in 185 countries.
“We have had world champions, both men and women, from every continent, with a possibility of bringing medals to a range of countries.”
The original one-dimensional format of the sport was replaced with transparent courts filmed by cameras from all angles.
Squash courts at major events are now surrounded by spectators and have also been situated at major landmarks such as the pyramids in Egypt and New York’s Grand Central Station.
“Squash is innovative; our presentation is of the highest standard as is our broadcast output; we can showcase a city and we are a low-cost addition with only 64 athletes and very easy to integrate. Essentially, a great worldwide sport that is ready, if selected,” he added.“So much of what we do focuses on the next generation of players – to introduce them and to retain them.
“We have a range of development initiatives to outline in Tokyo, both international and national ones that have been a feature of national federations’ work over many years.”
Ramachandran said that in terms of promotion and marketing, one of the tools the were preparing to use were the ‘pop-up’ courts – from inflatable fun courts to full show courts – to bring squash to the Japanese.
— World Squash (@WorldSquash) July 28, 2015
“They do not come to us, we go to them in schools, shopping malls, city squares and so many other places. We can reach out so well as a sport and would work hard with the hosts to encourage interest,” he said.
“As a ‘new’ sport, we know we must wait our turn, and so we have no concerns. We were gratified by the fact that the IOC included us in the shortlist of three initially, and now can only keep working hard to show the benefits that squash can bring to the Olympic Games, and hope for the best.”
EXPERT VIEW – Paul Dunphy
Major Events Consultant, SportBusiness Intelligence
Squash is in a strong position to secure inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games. It has a truly global reach being played competitively in 185 countries and considering the agility required it is a young person’s game meeting the IOC’s aspiration to be appealing to youth.
With the world’s rapidly growing urban population squash appeals as a game for the future.
Its infrastructural footprint is small (relative to some outdoor sports) and therefore can be accessible to those working and living in the city environment.
Also in squash’s favour is the set up costs are small relative to some of the other sports competing for a position in 2020.
With a total of only 64 athletes the number of courts required will be modest. A contender to watch this time around.