Much of the coverage has included perspectives from those around wrestling, which joins two other sport groups as finalists for the one remaining spot being determined by the International Olympic Committee on Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The Register asked the other finalists — squash and baseball-softball — to write open, unedited letters that explain why they deserved to awarded the spot for 2020 and ’24.
Kevin Klipstein, CEO of U.S. Squash, and Antonio Castro, vice president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation — and son of former Cuban president Fidel Castro — both provided letters to the Register.
According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), participation in squash has doubled in the US in the last five years to nearly 1.2 million participants. There are approximately 20 million squash players in more than 180 countries around the world and the current men’s and women’s world #1’s are from Egypt and Malaysia respectively. While squash may not be well known yet in the US, however it is a major sport, and one that has incredibly strong participatory and fan base
The basic details about what squash would look like in the Games include the following:
• 64 total competitors – 32 Men and 32 Women competing in individual knockout events
• A minimum of 27 nations will be represented in each draw, so the total number of nations competing would probably be around 40
• Competition would include a simple knockout comprising five rounds for each event, taking place over six days
• Two all-glass show courts with up to 4,000 seats around each would host the matches. The play could take place in an existing venue, could share a venue with another sport or it could take place outside in front of an iconic backdrop.
Squash has been on a journey of innovation in recent years, especially in the way it is broadcast and presented. State of the art all glass courts, referee video review, lighting and music have radically enhanced the spectator experience.
Some of the most radical changes have occurred in the way squash is now broadcast with innovations such as multiple camera angles, super slow mo replays and the trialling of super HD. We also have our own production team – through SquashTV – which broadcasts live more than 300 matches a year to ensure consistent, high quality broadcast output.
Squash would be low cost and easy to integrate into the Games with just 64 athletes, and two courts that can be built in a matter of days. It could share a venue or take place outside to showcase an iconic backdrop – and our sport has a track record of doing exactly this, such as in front of the Pyramids in Egypt, alongside Hong Kong Harbor, even in Grand Central Terminal in NYC each year for the last 15 years.
Squash would offer genuine medal opportunities to a growing number of countries, and the prospect of new nations on the medal podium. This is because it is a global sport played in 185 countries, almost 70 nations compete on the Men’s and Women’s tours and all five continents have produced both male and female world champions.
Squash is already played in every major multi-sport Games, is described as the ‘world’s healthiest sport’ by Forbes Magazine, and is a great sport to teach young people about tactics, strategy and movement. It is a sport proud of its anti-doping record and 100% compliance to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Squash also embraces gender parity and many of its key events are moving towards equality in prize money for men and women.
And because Squash is the only sport on the 2020 shortlist that has never been featured in the Olympic Games, it would add a fresh and growing addition to the 2020 Olympic Games Programme.
Kevin Klipstein — CEO, U.S. Squash
With 65 million players worldwide, baseball and softball ranks as the largest sport not on the Olympic programme. And from my perspective, it’s a game that belongs in the Games because like the Olympic Movement, it unites people across all the borders and boundaries that divide us.
It’s a game anyone, anywhere can play, regardless of age, gender, social standing, disability, cultural or political position. It’s a worldwide game already—played in more than 100 nations—but it needs the inspiration of the Olympic stage to carry it to every nation on earth.
Since baseball and softball are a national passion in Cuba, I played when I was young and took an interest in the development of the sport while in medical school. My personal commitment led me to advocate for its growth internationally and I ended up serving in various positions in the International Baseball Federation. Today, I’m a proud member of the World Baseball Softball Confederation team that is pitching to get baseball and softball back in the Olympic Games—our greatest global celebration of humanity and the key to inspiring young people everywhere to take up a sport.
What’s beautiful about the baseball softball combination we’re pitching to the International Olympic Committee is the balance between men and women in our concept. We’re planning two six-day tournaments running back-to-back in a single venue featuring eight teams each, all of whom have to survive a rigorous global qualification process. With the men playing baseball the first week of the Games, and the women playing softball the second week, our sport helps the IOC achieve one of its key goals for the Olympic Movement—full gender equity.
Softball, which has grown equally strong in the wake of baseball around the world, is unique in its empowerment of women everywhere. Today, you’ll find women playing softball across Europe, in the Muslim countries in the Middle East, on the dusty fields of Africa, and in the small villages of China.
As we strive to demonstrate the added values our game can bring to the Olympics, we’re emphasizing an established pattern of growth. Over the last eight years, the WBSC and its pro partners have conducted 140 baseball and softball development programs in 54 countries. The global growth of the game is underway and is inevitable, but in partnership with the Olympic Movement it could be accelerated greatly—for the benefit of all.
Perhaps most important, our game teaches the incredible lessons of team play. Like the Olympic Movement, it places the values of excellence, respect and friendship on a high pedestal—and it teaches that we can achieve far more together than we can separately.
Many people know that my father, Fidel, once played baseball. While his career took a different path, he did instill in me a love for the game—and that love has inspired me to work hard to help propel the growth of the game globally. If we succeed in our mission to get baseball and softball back in the Olympics, you can be sure that when the tournament starts at the 2020 Games, you’ll find me in the stands cheering madly for Team Cuba.
Antonio Castro is an orthopedic surgeon in Cuba, a Vice President of the WBSC and served as Chief Medical Officer of the Cuban Team to London 2012