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ICC chief fears golf’s problems could damage cricket’s Olympic bid

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive David Richardson has expressed his concern the sport’s fledgling bid to secure a place on the Olympic programme may have become more difficult due to the negativity surrounding golf’s place at the Games.

Golf was approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2013 for inclusion in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Golf is returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, but 20 men have pulled out from the Games, including the top four of Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.

This has led to lengthy debate over golf’s merits as an Olympic sport and Richardson has said the situation cannot be ignored if the ICC is to make a convincing case for inclusion in the 2024 Olympics to the IOC.

“The IOC made it clear from the start that if we want to persuade them, they want the top teams and the top athletes,” Richardson said, according to UK newspaper The Guardian. “I think this experience with golf might have made it even harder for us to get in, because we will have to convince them our top teams and players will be there. Will cricketers regard it as the pinnacle, or would they prefer a World Twenty20, a World Cup, an Ashes series? And if it’s not the pinnacle, should we be in the Olympics in the first place?”

The ICC this month stepped up its efforts for cricket to be included in major multi-sport events by stating it will submit an application for a women’s competition at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban, South Africa.

Richardson in November said the ICC had held productive talks with the IOC over the sport’s potential return to the Olympic Games programme. The ICC was recognised by the IOC in 2010 but a concerted push to earn a place at the Olympics has failed to materialise. Cricket was part of the Commonwealth Games in 1998 although talks last year to secure a return for the 2018 edition on Australia’s Gold Coast proved unsuccessful.

Cricket tournaments in the Asian Games have been hindered by major nations sending under-strength teams, citing other commitments on the ICC schedule. Cricket made its solitary Olympic appearance at the Paris 1900 Games, but many have called for the sport to be considered for a return through the more modern and shorter format of Twenty20.

The ICC has said there will be further discussions on cricket’s potential participation in the Olympic Games following further meetings with the IOC later in the year. Richardson confirmed the ICC would have to present its case for the 2024 Games to the IOC by next summer at the latest or approach the venue directly once hosting rights are assigned next September.

He added: “The IOC are quite keen for cricket to be involved but it must be treated seriously and not Under-23s or a format of the game that is not taken seriously. Twenty20 is the format they are talking about – men and women – and fewer teams than you might imagine. There’s not much space for more than eight teams.

“Even though the US or China might not participate, they will still see the game being played on television. And as I understand it, the funding is not based on sending a team but if it is an Olympic sport. All teams would be involved in qualifying, we would have regional qualifiers.

“The majority of ICC members believe that if cricket was at the Olympics it could do wonders for globalising the game. Sure, the World Twenty20 gets a lot of viewers around the world but it attracts current cricket fans. If you want to really globalise the game – USA, China, Europe – then we have to be at the Olympics.”