Not Commerce But Popularity, Growing Presence In LA Made Us Include Cricket In Olympic Games, Says IOC
MUMBAI, (IANS) – Cricket’s commercial massive strength in India and other member countries was not a consideration for the sport’s return to the Olympic Games after 120-plus years at the Los Angeles Olympics, scheduled in July 2028, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said on October 16.
Cricket was last played in the 1900 edition in Paris as a one-off match between Great Britain and France (a team comprising British nationals and two born in France). Its return to the Olympics was approved by the 141st IOC Session in Mumbai on October 16.
According to Bach, the reason the organizing committee of the Los Angeles Olympic Games proposed it as an additional sport was cricket’s recent development as the fastest-growing team sport in the world and the potential the IOC sees in it.
“Let me make it clear, the commercial aspect is not a consideration for us. The first argument (in favor of cricket) is that we have seen the growing importance of cricket becoming one of the most popular sports worldwide. The second reason for LA to consider is that it had a growing presence in the United States,” Bach said.
“We have been given good advice by our IOC member from India, Nita Ambani, and we have also seen figures related to cricket in the last few years,” he said.
In this regard, the IOC’s Director of Sports, Kit McConnell said the Organizing Committee for the Los Angeles Olympic Games had discussions with professional cricket leagues like the Indian Premier League and Major League Cricket to get their inputs about the sport.
Asked whether the IOC will go ahead with cricket at LA 2028 even if the top players are not involved, Bach first termed it as a hypothetical question but went on to say that he believes that the best players in the world are enthusiastic about playing in the Olympics.
“At this moment, we have every reason to believe that the best players are enthusiastic about participating in the Olympic Games,” Bach said during a press conference on the second day of the 141st IOC Session here on October 16.
The IOC president was also asked whether Afghanistan, which has disbanded its women’s cricket team since the Taliban came into power, will be allowed to play in the men’s tournament only if they qualify, Bach said there is enough time for Afghanistan to have a women’s cricket team too.
“We have seen recently that Afghanistan’s contingent at the Asian Games in Hangzhou had a significant number of female participants. So, there has been some development. We are closely monitoring the situation,” he said, adding that he had a fruitful discussion with some of Afghanistan’s female athletes when he visited the Athletes Village in Hangzhou.
Bach also said that the IOC as expressed in the Olympic Charter, the IOC has good relations with professional leagues around the world as part of the new initiative. He, however, made it clear that the contact with such leagues has been through the respective international federation.
“We want to improve our relations with the professional leagues and do this in cooperation with International Federations. This happens very well with basketball where we are in good contact with the NBA and doing this in cooperation with FIBA (International Basketball Federation), which has led to very positive development for basketball worldwide and in the Olympics. We would like to have similar relations with other sports. In this regard, I met the NFL Commission during my recent visit to the US and met the league through the International Ice Hockey Federation recently,” Bach said.