Sep 5, 2013, 9:10 AM EDT
The International Olympic Committee will make the second of three major votes at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday.
Nearly 100 IOC members will choose one of three sports — baseball/softball, squash and wrestling — for inclusion in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics from 11-11:45 a.m. Eastern time. For more on what happens Sunday, click here.
OlympicTalk will look at each sport’s pitch. Here is a rundown of squash:
In 2011, squash had to feel fairly confident about getting into the Olympics for 2020 and 2024, even though the vote was two years away.
That’s when the IOC short listed eight sports for possible inclusion — baseball, karate, roller sports, sports climbing, softball, squash, wakeboarding and wushu. Of those, only baseball, karate, roller sports and softball joined squash in 2009 when it came up short for 2016 inclusion, when golf and rugby made it.
In 2005, baseball and softball had been cut from the Olympics beginning with the 2012 Games. Also in 2005, karate and squash actually beat golf and rugby, as well as roller sports, in voting for 2012 inclusion, though none made it. Squash, so close and yet to be given a chance in the Olympics, was gaining momentum.
Squash is a racket sport pitting two competitors hitting a ball against a wall. Points are won if a ball bounces twice on the floor before one competitor gets to it. Points are lost for hitting the ball too low on the wall.
The last year saw a combination blow dent its hopes. In 2012, baseball and softball merged into one bid, strengthening the cause of both sports. In February, wrestling was cut from the list of Olympic core sports in a shocking decision, so the Olympic stalwart dropped into the group of squash and others looking for 2020 and 2024 inclusion.
In May, the IOC named three finalists. Squash made it again, as expected two years ago. So did baseball/softball and wrestling, two bids that, one year ago, wouldn’t have been candidates for Sunday’s vote. Squash could have been the popular pick heading into Buenos Aires. Not anymore.
The Associated Press described its chances as, “once the favorite, now maybe a stroke too far.” The New York Times called it “a long shot.”
“We’re happy that we’re in the final three,” said Kevin Klipstein, CEO of U.S. Squash since 2004, in a phone interview. “It was definitely actually a bit of a tough break, for wrestling to be selected as a sport to be eliminated (in February) because a lot of squash coverage was being viewed very favorably up until that point.”
Klipstein said the feedback squash received after failed bids for 2012 and 2016 inclusion were to better its broadcast product. It added more streaming of the sport’s professional tours, shooting in HD with multiple camera angles. In the U.S., ESPN3 and Tennis Channel continue to give it more attention, but how far it has come is still questionable.
“We put together as good a product as we can,” Klipstein said. “We’ve done what we can do. See where it shakes out on Sunday.”
Klipstein said squash is on a similar trajectory to what tennis was on 30 or 40 years ago. Tennis greats such as Andre Agassi, Kim Clijsters, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have backed the bid.
“I could be wrong, but I think why it’s not on TV as much is because it almost seems like the same point is getting played,” Murray said at the U.S. Open this week. “It’s maybe not the best spectator sport, but it’s a very difficult sport to play. You have to be extremely fit, have very good hand/eye coordination, good feel and good touch.”
Squash is cost-effective. It can be played on a glass court built pretty much anywhere.
“I could do it on the bridge over the Bosphorus (Turkey), in a bullfighting ring (Spain) or in the Imperial Palace gardens (Japan),” World Squash Federation president N. Ramachandran of India said, according to The Associated Press. “You tell me where to put it, and I will do it. You can put them up in a matter of three days.”
Squash hopes a man named Mike Lee can work more magic. Lee, described by different outlets as a lobbyist, strategist and consultant, worked for London 2012, Rio 2016, rugby’s successful bid and the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Another pro for squash is that it’s global. All five continents have produced world champions.
“With athletes 185 countries playing squash, I can count on going to tournaments and being surrounded by players from every part of the globe,” Amanda Sobhy, 20, the top-ranked U.S. squash player, told USA Today. “And yet, deep down inside, every single one of us would gladly trade all of our titles for the chance to compete in the Olympics.”
What it also has going is that it’s the only one of the candidates that has yet to be given a shot in the Olympic program. Winning the vote would increase its growing legitimacy.
“We’ve always viewed the Olympics as something we really want to achieve, for the athletes, that they get a chance to compete on the world’s biggest and brightest stage,” Klipstein said, “and it’s clear that we fit well into the Olympics overall in terms of the values that we have — the sportsmanship, the fact that it’s clean.”
Remember when wrestling gained attention for holding a meet inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal in May? Squash, in addition to an event outside the Egyptian pyramids, has been holding competitions at Grand Central for years.
“I guess imitation is flattery,” Klipstein said. “(Wrestling) got some nice publicity for it. I guess it’s a validation of the fact that we’re doing things that make sense.”
If squash doesn’t prevail Sunday, it’s not going to give up.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” Klipstein said. “Dust ourselves off, come back with a stronger bid.”
Jul 2, 2015, 2:14 PM EDT
Four other U.S. teams advanced to quarterfinals.
Jul 2, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT
A suspected elbow fracture may force Hagino to pull out.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:07 AM EDT
Walsh Jennings had never been part of such a rout with Misty May-Treanor.
Jun 30, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT
“We’re not discussing right now the possibility of not submitting a bid.”
Jun 30, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT
Bolt flew to Munich to treat an injury.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT
Obama has never attended an Olympics as president, and this is his last chance.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
Shnapir won Olympic bronze in Sochi.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT
Franklin beat out another Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful for the honor.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:19 AM EDT
Ronaldo debuted at the Olympics two years before his first World Cup.
Jun 30, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT
The 2015 Hall of Fame class also includes four men’s Olympic medalists.
Jun 30, 2015, 8:10 AM EDT
Most decorated Olympian of all time turned 30 on Tuesday.
Jun 30, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT
Phelps still trails a legendary gymnast, U.S. track and field champions and one of his 2004 Olympic swimming teammates.
Jun 30, 2015, 7:43 AM EDT
Phelps turned 30 on Tuesday, which means his Olympic debut was half a lifetime ago.
Jun 29, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT
The U.S. appears headed for a historically strong World Championships medal haul.
Jun 29, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
“The critical issue that everyone asks is, ‘Can we run a privately funded Games with a surplus?'”
Jun 29, 2015, 11:09 AM EDT
Agnel isn’t the only men’s swimming star who will be absent from Worlds.
Jun 28, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT
The women’s 800m final was the craziest of the day.
Jun 28, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT
“I want justice for everyone involved.”
Jun 28, 2015, 3:53 PM EDT
Three first-time Worlds members in the women’s 5000m.
Jun 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Justin Gatlin is slated for the 200m.
- USOC eyes majority support for Boston 2024 ‘relatively soon’ 0
- Usain Bolt pulls out of July track meets 1
- Michael Phelps’ career in photos on his 30th birthday 0
- Michael Phelps’ potential record chases at Rio Olympics 0
- Flashback: Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics 0
- Five takeaways from U.S. Track and Field Championships 0
- Boston 2024 releases Olympic bid version 2.0 (photos) 0
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (60)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (39)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)