Cricket’s Olympic fate is set for Friday when the executive board of the International Olympic Committee votes on which sports are added to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
The popular bat and ball sport in British Commonwealth countries has been widely deemed as a frontrunner. Multiple major newspaper reports recently, including Washington Post, The Guardian and The Times, citing sources, have indicated that cricket is likely to be included for the L.A. Games.
Sources close to cricket’s bid have expressed to me increasing optimism over the past year with cricket’s massive popularity in the hugely populated South Asian region hard to resist for the IOC.
The confidence within cricket circles appears justified with IOC president Thomas Bach seemingly offering his support of the sport.
“It could make sense,” Bach told CNBC-TV18. “You know, I cannot hide that, I’m really a fan of cricket, I was even playing once.
“I was in Fiji. We were walking across a sports field. There were women playing cricket and then my spokesperson, who is an ardent fan of cricket said, ‘now you have to play’.
“So we went to this women’s cricket team and they allowed me to play with them for some moments.”
Firstly, the Organizing Committee of the L.A. Games need to make a proposal. The IOC will then ratify Friday’s decisions when it meets in October in Mumbai.
“I think you can imagine from my answers what my answer to such a request would be,” hinted Bach who unsurprisingly well knows the windfall of cricket’s inclusion.
According to The Times, the value of the IOC’s TV rights in India would increase from $20 million to $200 million if cricket was part of the L.A. Olympics.
Cricket has only featured in the Olympics once before – at the 1900 Paris Games where a two-day match was played between Britain and France.
It never made much sense as an Olympic sport given cricket’s protracted nature of playing days on end. But the increasing popularity of the three-hour T20 cricket, which has upended the sport, has meant there is now a suitable, sharper format for the Olympics.
For a sport with grandiose boasts of being the world’s second biggest sport, cricket is invisible to large chunks of the world. It has long been shackled to traditional cricket playing countries with growth beyond the heartland slow.
But the Olympic sheen would see cricket gain much-needed credibility worldwide, enabling financially-stricken smaller cricket countries to access government funding.
Many cricket administrators have been keen on the Olympics for some time, but there have been major roadblocks, particularly from all-powerful India’s governing body for various reasons.
But India has had a change of tune in recent times as the sport’s decision makers started to seriously map out a path for cricket’s 2028 inclusion. The L.A. Olympics is especially opportunistic as cricket aims to penetrate the world’s biggest sports market.
There is much excitement building. One way or another, this drawn out bid will be finally over.