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Cricket to feature at 2028 Los Angeles Olympics

Cricket to feature at 2028 Los Angeles Olympics
October 16, 2023 Web Desk

MUMBAI (AFP) - Cricket will feature as one of five new sports at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles after being approved on Monday in a vote of the International Olympic Committee's session.

The IOC's executive board last week accepted a proposal by LA organisers for cricket's Twenty20 format, together with baseball/softball, flag football, squash and lacrosse, to be included. But the final choice still had to be voted on Monday at the IOC session in Mumbai, one of the global centres for cricket, as India hosts the men's 50-over Cricket World Cup.

Only two delegates at the session voted against the new sports. Organisers have proposed a six-team event, in both men's and women's Twenty20 cricket, the shortest form of the game. The United States is set to field sides as the host nation, but no firm decision has been made on the number of teams, or how they will qualify.

Cricket last featured at the 1900 Paris Olympics, when a team from Britain beat a side representing France. Adding cricket to the Olympic programme is an obvious move, financially speaking. It would tap into the lucrative South Asian market, attracting fans in countries such as India and Pakistan.

The Indian Premier League, featuring cricket's global stars, has helped India become the unquestioned economic driving force of the sport, thanks to legions of fans and lucrative broadcasting deals in a nation where the game is almost a religion. Major League Cricket, a professional Twenty20 League, launched in the United States in July, with the US a co-host of next year's men's T20 World Cup together with territories in the West Indies.

"It's a win-win situation," International Cricket Council chairman Greg Barclay told reporters in Mumbai, of cricket's inclusion in the LA 2028 programme. "We've got a global sport, what I think is the fastest-growing global sport, but getting onto the biggest sporting stage in the world, the Olympics, is a massive shot in the arm for the game," the New Zealander added.

'2.5 billion rabid fans' 

Explaining the push for cricket's inclusion, Los Angeles 2028 chairman Casey Wasserman, said: "It's a sport that is incredibly popular around the world, it's growing in the United States. The diaspora in the US is growing and engaged and exciting. 

"We think the opportunity to bring a sport that has 2.5 billion rabid fans to what we think is the greatest sport city in the world, it's a really powerful combination." IOC president Thomas Bach said the five new sports' additions would "showcase iconic American sports to the world, while bringing international sports to the United States".

Among the newly included US sports is flag football -- a limited-contact form of American football. Pierre Trochet, president of the International Federation of American Football, said its place on the programme would "offer an exciting new dimension to the Games -– uniting them, for the first time in history, with America's number-one sport in its youngest, most accessible and inclusive format".

Monday's vote also saw the racquet sport of squash finally make it onto an Olympic programme after several failed attempts. Zena Wooldridge, president of the World Squash Federation, said the game is an "amazingly dynamic, diverse and demanding sport that is perfectly suited for the Olympic Games".

There was no place, however, for the dance sport of breaking, which is set to disappear from the schedule after making its Olympic debut in Paris next year. Meanwhile the IOC said Monday the status of boxing at the 2028 Games remains "on hold" after it stripped the International Boxing Association (IBA) of its recognition following a dispute over how the sport is governed.

The IOC had set a limit of 10,500 athletes at a Games in a bid to control costs. But the addition of five new sports to the LA programme -- four of them team events -- is set to see that figure exceeded for the 2028 Games. The IOC's Olympic programme commission said it would now work on ensuring the final athlete quota numbers for LA 2028 "remain reasonable".