Squash pitches innovation in latest Olympic bid
LONDON – Squash leaders say they have improved their sport and it deserves to be part of the 2020 Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee rejected squash's attempts to join the 2012 and 2016 Games, saying the sport wasn't TV-friendly and the ball was hard to spot during play.
Squash is one of eight sports competing for inclusion in 2020. Thanks to a range of innovations, including glass floors and video replays, bid chiefs are confident of success this time.
"I can't think of anything better we could do to improve the sport," said N. Ramachandran, president of the World Squash Federation. "We have done these innovations to answer their queries. They have told us what the problems were and we have addressed them. We have changed the game completely."
Squash is competing with baseball, karate, roller sports, softball, sports climbing, wakeboard and wushu for a spot at the 2020 Games.
A ninth sport — which will be removed from the Olympic program after next year's London Games — will join the list of bidders in February 2013. The IOC will vote on the 2020 program in September 2013.
In addition to video-review technology, squash has adopted a "three-ref system" that adds two more officials to rule on disputed let-calls. The sport is experimenting with Hawk-Eye, the ball-tracking technology used in tennis and cricket.
The most eye-catching change, however, is the use of glass floors that can display advertisements between games, adding to the commercial appeal of the sport. During the Olympics, however, no advertisements are allowed at the venues. After a series of trial runs, the first use of glass floors in competition will come in the latter stages of the Under-21 World Cup in Chennai, India, in February.
The sport's new campaign new slogan is "Squash — Sport at its Best."
Ramachandran said squash is played by 20 million men and women on more than 50,000 courts and 185 countries." He cited the United States, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Germany as countries where squash is flourishing.
Prize money is also growing on the men's and women's tours that are made up of 850 professionals, Ramachandran said.
"It really is an exciting time for our sport," he said.