Sports writer Will Rogers argues the case for squash being included in future Olympics due to its difficulty and global appeal
As the 32nd Olympics kicks off with a record thirty-three different sports, fans from across the world will witness an Olympic Games like no other. Whether it be the breath-taking speed climbing, the traditional karate or the ethereal surfing, the International Olympic Committee has continued to develop the event for a wider audience. However, one sport continues to miss out. Squash governing bodies have continually applied for Olympic status, having been included at several Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, yet Paris 2024 have rejected their approaches, preferring to instead add breakdancing.
Many squash legends, including the six-time world champion Jahangir Khan, have promoted squash, highlighting its technological advances and public availability. Khan criticized breakdancing’s inclusion for Paris, describing it as a “pleasure for a nightclub”. Whilst everyone can accept the need for modernization and inspiring the next generation, I believe that squash requires physical and mental fortitude far beyond many of the newly added sports.
Moreover, many people are sceptical of football and golf’s inclusion in the Games, stating that the Olympics should be the pinnacle of the sport, with many athletes skipping the Games to focus on other endeavours in these sports. Although there are several other important squash competitions throughout the calendar, I’m sure every athlete would focus on peaking to represent their country at the Olympic Games.
Squash provides some of the most memorable images on the sporting calendar, with events played in such iconic venues as the Egyptian Pyramids and Grand Central Station. Just imagine fans crowded around a squash court under the Eiffel Tower in three years’ time. As many outdoor venues use clear courts and temporary stands, squash is a relatively cheap sport for the International Olympic Committee to include.
Squash truly is a global game, with over 20 million players and 47,000 courts across the world. Whilst Egypt dominate both the men’s and women’s game, there are top players from each of the 6 continents and there would be many opportunities to medal for athletes outside of the traditional Olympic powerhouses. The team format provides high-class action in an entertaining style and would test the fitness and physicality of the top players.
The cost of playing sports, especially to an Olympic standard, is continually increasing, yet a single squash court provides the opportunity for young plays to train and hone their skills. Whilst sports like rowing and equestrian seem economically impossible for many smaller nations, squash balls and racquets are relatively cheap and durable, allowing for people of any age to improve.
Whilst many Olympic sports focus mainly on technique and mental fortitude, squash combines brutal aggression, refined technique and unbelievable fitness into the ultimate sport. A 2003 Forbes survey on the World’s Healthiest Sports placed squash number one, pipping rowing to top spot. Many squash matches last over an hour with only short breaks in between sets and an Olympic length tournament would severely test the world’s best athletes.
Tennis is undeniably the premier racquet sport, yet squash is comparable to table tennis and badminton in its popularity. Table tennis strongly attracts the Chinese market and badminton is popular in Southeast Asia, but it is squash that is played throughout the emerging markets in the Middle East. With rumours floating around about a bid for the 2036 Olympic Games in the Middle East, squash would present an opportunity for a home gold medal, a crucial ingredient to any successful Games.
Finally, we should look at the social importance of squash in the Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. Amongst Arab states, Egypt continually ranks as one of the worst for gender equality, yet squash allows several women to demonstrate their talent to their male counterparts. Moreover, an Olympic gold medal would only further the drive for equality, with the Egyptian women being the overwhelming favourites for the medals. This may only be a small step in a much larger fight, but these talented sports stars, both male and female, deserve recognition on the biggest stage.
As the Olympic Games continue to grow in order to attract a wider audience, squash really deserves its chance to shine at the top table. Whilst athletics, swimming and cycling may dominate the schedule, squash would represent a fantastic, global addition to the world’s greatest sporting contest. A sport that really encapsulates the ideas of ‘faster, higher, stronger’.
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