August 15, 2012

Olympics

Time cricket embraced the Olympics

Aamod Desai
Olympic archery will take place at Lord's in 2012
Wouldn't cricket at Lord's have been a better option during the Olympics?  © Marylebone Cricket Club
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Another glorious edition of the Olympics has headed off into the sunset. It was a couple of weeks that showcased the best athletes competing for the ultimate glory, an event that exhibited disappointment, defeat, joy, pride, victory and had the participation of 205 nations. A rich history, a massive platform, unparalleled plaudits and arguably the biggest show sports can offer, make the Olympic Games stand out. So it would be only natural if ardent cricket fans feel left out every time this marquee sports event rolls around.

Unlike motorsports, cricket is recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee. Though cricket wasn't an outright success in multi-sport models previously, times have changed and today cricket has its Twenty20 avatar on offer for such events. The ICC has 106 member countries, spanning continents and covering most of the globe. So what is keeping the ICC and its member bodies from applying for the Summer Olympics?

About a decade ago this wouldn't have been a valid question, with issues of time, number of participants, logistics and the questions of maintenance of pitches over the duration of the event prevalent. But today most of these issues have an answer in T20 cricket.

At London 2012, football (men) had 16 teams and hockey (men) saw 12 teams compete for gold. The World T20 has 12 teams in the fray and a couple of them emerge from the competitions for Associate and Affiliate members. Through the World Cricket League (the ICC's endeavour to increase global participation) the game is gradually spreading. Yes, the cricket is not competitive at all its levels, but things can change if they are allowed to.

Another argument that goes into preventing cricket from aligning with the Games is that the Olympics stand as the summit of competition across most of its disciplines. Cricket has a 50-overs and a T20 World Cup, with a Test championship in the pipeline. Draw parallels to other sports at the Olympics: football - surely the Olympics isn't the biggest show the sport has to offer; tennis - Federer would probably cherish his Wimbledon trophy more than he would rue the gold medal … you could add a few other sports to this list as well. For cricket, though, the Olympics could serve as the pinnacle for T20 cricket, with the World T20 being scrapped.

In terms of scheduling difficulties, instead of having windows in the Future Tours Programme for the Champions League T20, having one for the Olympics could serve a better purpose. England, West Indies, Sri Lanka run their home seasons during the period when the Summer Olympics is held; surely two weeks off those seasons once in four years shouldn't really be a big problem?

Also, Olympics participation will definitely extend the sport's reach. Any general sports enthusiast, in say India or Sri Lanka, would tell you that he likes to watch sporting disciplines at the Olympics that he is unfamiliar with. The same could be true of cricket and those folks who have not come in contact with it before.

Cricket could face several stumbling blocks during its initial phase at the Olympics - building a substantial fan following, ensuring a high level of competiveness at all stages, the threat of undercooked pitches (the 2020 Olympics will be held at Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo). But in the long run, it could be the fillip that propels cricket towards the status of a truly global sport, which the ICC seems to be striving so hard to achieve.

Keywords: Olympics

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Anand on (August 20, 2012, 13:00 GMT)

Please spare the Olympics. All this match fixing, spot fixing and what not will vitiate the Olympics.

Posted by Terry Jones of Australia on (August 18, 2012, 9:53 GMT)

Cricket in the olympics would be a brilliant idea and would not be as expensive as is being stated. For a 16 team competition, cricket would require three group matches per group (12 matches), two semi finals and a final. Thats 15 matches over a two week period. That would only require one ground. That ground wouldnt be difficult to do, it would just mean importing the grass and having a highly skilled grounds team to do the grass over. Most countries that host the olympics have several grounds of similar dimensions that they could use for a small period of time. Regarding countries supporting the motion, I expect that a majority would pass it as it would bring in extra revenue and show case the second most $$$$ sport in the world (according to ICC). However I believe that the ICC needs to expand the use of T20 matches to increase the experience of associate countries. This can occur by including top 6 associate countries into FTP as guaranteed 30 T20Is every two years as qualifiers.

Posted by Vin on (August 17, 2012, 20:31 GMT)

ICC is not interested in entering in Olympics.

Posted by Gizza on (August 17, 2012, 7:53 GMT)

@Nigel G, do you know how rugby sevens was voted in as an Olympic sport? It is played by a similar number of countries compared to cricket and none of the economic powers (US, China, Russia) are that interested in it although I guess some of mainland Europe is. If it was Tests or 50 over games I agree with many comments that the seats will be empty. But a T20 games is only three hours. I think there will be people curious enough to watch a few games. They have to make sure that over rates are up though. And no silly ad breaks. Before the IPL and similar leagues, T20 games finished about 20-30 minutes earlier than they do these days. @Steve, the 2020 Olympics will be held in either Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid. As a general concluding comment, if synchronised swimming is an Olympic sport I'm sure cricket can become one too!

Posted by Rajendra Dheer on (August 16, 2012, 18:35 GMT)

some excellent comments have appeared. Just out of curiosity like to know how many member countries ardently follow fencing but it is included and I can give several other examples. Just add the populations of the countries that play and/or follow cricket and the point is made to try all means to include cricket. Rest of the details can be worked out if there is desire to make it happen. ONce again TV audience and other sources of revenue are marketing issues and they can be handled. The Olympics are not just to appease the western audience but are meant to be global in nature and they should be handled as such.

Posted by Nigel G on (August 16, 2012, 6:55 GMT)

The major obstacle to adding cricket as a new sport to the Olympics is that under olympic constitution a majority vote is needed to add a new sport. At best cricket would receive 30 votes, 9 of the Test playing nations, the 10 nations that represent the west indies and maybe the associate nations.

Posted by Richard T on (August 16, 2012, 6:34 GMT)

No matter how many times we try to "market" cricket to America and the rest of the world its always going to be doomed to failure, its not as if Americans are unaware of cricket, its been played there for a couple of hundred years but is only a minority sport played by the children of immigrants and considered an archaic remnant of a bygone age by 99.5% of the population,sure people will watch any sport they put on at the Olympics but when its over dont expect them to rush out and join a cricket club, just my opinion.

Posted by Steve on (August 16, 2012, 5:24 GMT)

Next Olympics is in Rio and 2020 is where? probably in USA?...where the heck would they play a cricket tournament? On a baseball or soccer pitch? Such matches would surely not meet ICC criteria and not be awarded international status like the cricket in 1998 Commonwealth Games.. I just cant believe that non cricket playing countries are going to spend a couple of $billion to construct a proper size cricket stadium for matches that will no doubt be played in front of empty seats...and who is going to watch the matches on TV? USA? China? Russia? Europe?...its a bad idea, just because it 'could' be done doesn't mean it should be.

Posted by Ed on (August 16, 2012, 4:25 GMT)

If cricket was to appear in the Olympics England would compete under Great Britian and the West Indies would compete under their home nations (e.g Jamaica, Barbados etc). I don't see this as an issue. However, a qualifying tournament would need to take place to determine who competes at the Olympics. I see the timing of a qualifying tournament that all cricketing countries can agree on as a stumbling block.

Posted by Sean Thorpe on (August 16, 2012, 4:19 GMT)

Excellent point. Baseball is not a world sport yet it has a place in the Olympics separate even from softball a very similar game. I think with the advent of T20 cricket is ripe for a global audience. The fast pace nature and brilliant fielding options not to mention the excitement of the mind games between bowlers and batsmen in a condensed version is surly the best way to acquire new fans to the sport. The IOC would also benefit as India a nation of over a billion people would certainly pay more interest to the Olympics.

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