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Cricket in the Olympics? The IOC’s Discussions will Lead the Way

4 May, 2016

By: Tracey Schelmetic

While the sport of cricket remains a curiosity to most Americans, to much of the rest of the world, it’s an adored tradition. It has been called by some the world’s second most popular sport (with soccer being the first). To many fans, the question remains, why is it not an Olympic event? For starters, it was…back in the 1900 summer Olympics which took place at the Vélodrome de Vincennes in Paris. (Great Britain won the gold medal.) But 116 years is a long dry spell for an Olympic sport.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials will soon hold a board meeting in Dubai to discuss the potential Olympic future of a number of games. Cricket fans would like their sport to be one of them. But according to Liam Morgan writing for Inside the Games, cricket was one of just seven out of 33 eligible sports not to apply for inclusion on the program at Tokyo 2020, which implies that the entire IOC is not united behind the idea of cricket as an Olympic sport. This is despite a meeting held late last year with IOC president Thomas Bach, in which talks to include cricket in future games were described as “productive.”

Former Australian bowler Shane Warne and Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar have reportedly lobbied hard for the sport to be once again raised to Olympic levels. Other influential organizations are joining the call. England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke has been actively encouraging his members to get behind the idea of Olympic cricket.

Even in the U.S., cricket’s fortunes are rising. When Warne and Tendulkar came to the US last year for the Cricket All-Stars exhibition T20 tour, it was deemed newsworthy enough for the New York Times, CNN and CNBC to give it extensive media coverage. There’s evidence that there could be money to make with cricket, according to Usman Shuja, likening its potential to the fortunes of rugby.

“Since rugby became an Olympic sport, over $15 million a year from Chinese national and local governments has been invested in rugby sevens,” wrote Shuja. “One could expect a similar amount would be invested in cricket should it be included in the Olympics.”

Some lovers of the game, however, have worried that Olympic cricket could devalue other major cricket events. Chief executive of cricket’s governing body David Richardson told Inside The Games that there were concerns that participation in the Olympics could devalue the ICC WT20 event.

“We need to investigate that as well before making a decision,” he said. “I think it is down to the willingness of the members. If all the members want to go to the Olympics, then I think cricket has got a good chance of achieving it,” he said.

The ICC WT20 event has been gaining steam in recent years. Earlier this month, ICC chief executive David Richardson said he will push for at least two more teams to be added to the first and second round in future competitions, according to ESPN. Some cricket supporters have interpreted this as a push to support a sustained campaign to reintroduce cricket to the Summer Olympic Games.

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