Disappointment engulfs world of squash after Tokyo 2020 decision

Squash is again being denied the chance to take its place alongside tennis and badminton in the Olympic movement

There has been an outpouring of disappointment and near-disbelief at squash again being denied the chance to take its place alongside tennis and badminton in the Olympic movement.

Squash was among eight sports being considered by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee for recommendation to the International Olympic Committee, which makes its final decision at the 129th IOC Session in Rio next August.

However, in its announcement today, the Tokyo committee has selected baseball/softball, karate, climbing, surfing and skateboarding but omitted squash, along with wushu and bowling.

This is the second time that squash’s hopes of inclusion have been dashed after years of high-profile campaigning, huge strides in mobile court design and broadcasting, and growing evidence of its wide reach across both international boundaries and ages.

Back in 2013, squash was shortlisted among three sports by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee, saying it “recommended that baseball/softball, squash and wrestling be proposed to the 125th IOC Session for possible inclusion as an additional sport on the Olympic programme for the 2020 Olympic Games.”

That vote went to wrestling, but for squash to be sidelined again by another set of sports this autumn is doubly disappointing, as the WSF President N Ramachandran has admitted: “After our 12-year journey to join the Olympic Games programme, and the opportunity of a ‘second chance’ after the heart-break of missing out in our first 2020 bid in Buenos Aires two years ago, I am utterly devastated on behalf of our great sport that our dream of taking part in the Tokyo Games cannot now be realised.

“I know I speak on behalf of the millions of squash players around the world for whom the opportunity of seeing their sport participate in the Olympics has been an absolute priority, and like me, they will be heartbroken.”

Social media was quickly abuzz with comments from many of the squash’s big names.

World No 1 Mohamed Elshorbagy of Egypt on Twitter: “Have no words to describe how disappointing this is becoming.”

World No4, Briton Alison Waters added “Well done IOC, another great decision ….. Not!! #Tokyo2020.”

German world No6 Simon Rosner tweeted: “That’s a ‘thanks for coming’, as @joeybarrington would put it.”

Ramachandran did conclude his statement on a positive note: “This is not the end for squash. Our sport, played by vast numbers week in and week out, flourishes at every level from recreational to events around the world. We will go from strength to strength while we continue to target participation at a future date in the Games.”

For many of its most successful stars, however—the likes of 35-year-old Briton Nick Matthew, who won the British Open and World Open three times apiece, and squash’s famed eight-time world champion, Nicol David, who topped the rankings for nine years—Olympic participation, if and when it does come, will surely be too late.

But while this latest snub will be felt most keenly by squash’s elite, it will also be felt by its millions of club and casual fans around the world too… and eventually, one hopes, just as keenly by the Olympic movement itself.

For as the World Squash Federation said in the run-up to the announcement: “Squash is youthful, it is athletic and competitive, and enjoyed in 185 countries. It has been voted the world’s healthiest sport. Our athletes, innovation, broadcast quality and presentation are why squash would bring something special to the Olympic Games.”

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