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June 9, 2012
Cricket's sole appearance in the Olympic Games will be re-enacted later this month when teams from France and Britain meet to reprise a match that took place in Paris 112 years ago. France Cricket (FC), the national governing body for the sport, will field a side against the MCC in Twenty20 and 50-over matches at Chateaux du Thoiry on June 16.
The MCC already has its own Olympic connections. Its Lord's home will stage the archery competition in the London Olympics later this summer.
The matches, which have no official Olympic status, are being played to raise awareness of cricket in France, although they will doubtless attract a miniscule amount of attention compared to another France v England clash - in the European football championships on Monday.
In an Olympic year, however, the matches will offer a reminder of one of the more unusual episodes in Olympic history when Devon County Wanderers played a mixed France side drawn from Standard Athletic Club and Albion CC in Paris at the Velodrome de Vincennes. The match was 12-a-side and the majority of France's team were ex-pats. Britain won the game by 156 runs.
Although the match was eventually classified as an OIympic event, more than a century passed before cricket was given full recognition as a sport by the International Olympic Committee OC in 2010.
The ICC has yet to decide whether to apply to become an Olympic sport - it would presumably play havoc with an already overcrowded international calendar - and the absence of cricket from the London Olympics has meant that an obvious opportunity has already passed the game by.
France claims about 4,000 active players and more than 200 qualified coaches. They have already achieved one notable success by getting permission from the French Primary School Sports Association to deliver cricket training to teachers, raising ambitions to spread the word in 200 primary schools by 2015. Because of a shortage of cricket grounds, the plan is to develop short forms of the game indoors.
France are among the lowliest nations in world cricket, with ambitious to qualify for Division Eight of the ICC's World Cricket League in Samoa in September. After indulging in a spot of Olympic history, they will take part in a four-nation qualifying tournament from June 20-23 against Austria, Belgium and Gibraltar.
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