In its quest to get a place in Olympics, cricket has taken a massive stride after being invited by Los Angeles Olympics committee to make a presentation. Cricket is shortlisted among nine sports that will be reviewed by the IOC for LA 2028.
Although LA 28 Games are not obliged to include any of them, they are more than willing to propose new games, depending on numerous factors. Cricket will compete against baseball/softball, lacrosse, break dancing, karate, kickboxing, flag football, squash, and motorsport. Among these sports, kickboxing, motorsport and baseball will be their main contenders.
With more than one billion fans across the world, cricket is an outlier among its challengers when it comes to global popularity. Moreover, the ICC will assure the presence of some of the biggest names in sports – an important aspect of the evaluation process IOC.
Cricket has been played only once in the voluminous history of the Olympics – in Paris 1900. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of Olympics, used to be a huge fan of cricket. When the blueprints for the modern Olympics were laid down in 1894, cricket was included in ‘Section H’ of athletics. Other than the host France and pioneer England, Belgium and Netherlands were also expected to participate, but they pulled out due to unknown reasons.
In the end, cricket in the Olympics turned out to be just a two-team affair, and the games were played at Vélodrome de Vincennes. Cricket was also a part of the 1908 Olympics, originally set to be staged in Rome. Even the venue – Villa Borghese – was finalized, but the financial crisis forced Coubertin to shift the Games to London.
In 1908, the Olympic committee decided to ban those sports which are not played in numerous nations. The rule said, “the main principle laid down for 1908 was that no competition should be sanctioned which was not practiced by several different nations.” As a result, cricket, along with sports like baseball and pelota, was rejected forever.
More than a century later, the ICC, governing body of the sports, is now leaving no stones unturned to get back into the Olympics. A few days ago they received a massive setback after IOC reportedly declined to hear their request. But the rousing success of this game at the ongoing Commonwealth Games might have forced the IOC to reconsider their decision, and they will be reviewing cricket’s prospects for LA 2028.
Cricket seems to have major advantages against its competitors in all five evaluation criteria listed by the IOC. As per the Olympics charter, a sport must have a global fan following, and should be practiced by men across at least four continents, and women in at least 40 countries. This is where cricket has a significant advantage over other eight sports, including baseball, motorsport, and lacrosse. More than 100 associate nations play cricket round the year.
Secondly, the IOC wants the engagement of the best athletes of a particular sport in the Olympics. In football, you’ll hardly see any prominent players participating in the Games. Most nations send their second-fiddle team as footballers always prioritize club footballs. This not going to be a problem with cricket though. Even though franchise cricket is rising at a bludgeoning pace, the international matches still hold its allure. Since franchise cricket rarely lasts for more than a couple of month, the calendar can be planned accordingly during the Olympic year.
‘Upholding integrity and fairness’ is another parameter on which a sport is judged to be included in Olympics. Perhaps no other sports are as fixated on the idea of upholding nobility and fairness as cricket. The Laws Of Cricket, devised by Marylebone Cricket Club, starts with a preamble titled ‘Spirit Of The Game’.
Taking these things into consideration, it’s safe to assume a century-long separation between cricket and the Olympics is going to end sooner than later. If not LA 2028, then in Brisbane 2032. But IOC can’t remain oblivious to a game whose fan following is second only to football.
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