The Zimbabwe question April 2, 2004

Zimbabwe issue could affect London's Olympic bid

Wisden Cricinfo staff

If England boycott their tour of Zimbabwe this winter, it could have a knock-on effect on London's prospects of hosting the Olympic Games in 2012, according to a report in Friday's edition of The Guardian. What is more, the potential costs to the England & Wales Cricket Board are spiralling by the day, and if they are suspended by the ICC for their moral stance, they could lose up to £50 million in gate receipts, sponsorship, and TV revenue.

"The ECB is once again in an invidious position because of the utterly tragic situation in Zimbabwe," said John Read, the board's director of communications. "A one-year ban would cost the ECB tens of millions of pounds, and would have a devastating effect on all aspects of the game, including our ability to help nurture and develop the two million schoolchildren that play cricket up and down the country. It is difficult to envisage a more serious scenario facing cricket in England and Wales."

The ECB's stance has also caused widespread distrust among African IOC members, whose votes will be crucial when it comes to deciding which city is awarded the 2012 Olympics. It has been noted that there was no such opposition to Zimbabwe's participation in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, partly because of a fear of an African boycott.

"It's not a red-flag issue for us," a London 2012 source told The Guardian, "but we're grown-up enough to know that we are in the business of international relations." The source confirmed that the potential "ripple effect" of the ECB's decision had been made clear. Robert Mutsauki, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, added: "We would hope England's commitment to tour Zimbabwe is fulfilled. The ZCU is an affiliate member of the ZOC and we will back them in all their endeavours."