Cricket, the world’s second most popular sport, may soon make its return to the Olympic Games after more than a century. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is set to decide on the inclusion of new sports for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics on October 15-16, and cricket is among the nine contenders.
Cricket’s Olympic history and ambitions
Cricket has only featured once in the Olympic Games, back in 1900 in Paris, when Great Britain and France played a two-day match that was later recognised as an official Olympic event. Since then, cricket has been absent from the world’s biggest sporting festival, mainly due to the lack of global participation and interest.
However, in recent years, cricket has grown in popularity and reach, especially in the emerging markets of America and Asia. The International Cricket Council (ICC), the governing body of the sport, has expressed its intention to push for cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics, with the 2028 Games in Los Angeles being the primary target.
The ICC believes that cricket can add value to the Olympic movement by bringing in millions of fans and viewers from across the world, especially from the cricket-crazy regions of India and South Asia. The ICC also hopes that cricket’s Olympic debut will help develop the sport in new territories and attract more players and sponsors.
Cricket’s chances and challenges
Cricket is facing a tough competition from eight other sports that are vying for a spot in the LA28 sports programme. These are flag football, karate, kickboxing, baseball-softball, lacrosse, breakdancing, squash and motorsport. The IOC will consider various factors such as popularity, universality, gender equality, youth appeal and legacy before making its final decision.
Cricket has some advantages that may work in its favour. One is the current cricket boom in America, where some of the biggest tech firms have invested in the Major League Cricket (MLC), a professional T20 league that aims to launch in 2023. The LA28 organising committee is headed by Casey Wasserman, a prominent sports media mogul who could see the potential in cricket.
Another is the fact that the 2032 Olympics will be held in Brisbane, Australia, where cricket is a major sport. There will be a local interest and demand for cricket in the Australian Games, which could influence the IOC’s decision. Moreover, cricket has already proven its success in multi-sport events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, where it has attracted large crowds and media attention.
However, cricket also faces some challenges that may hinder its Olympic bid. One is the lack of consensus among the ICC members on the format and qualification process for the Olympic tournament. The ICC has proposed a T20 format with eight teams for men and women each, but some members have expressed their reservations about the feasibility and fairness of such a format.
Another is the issue of scheduling and availability of top players. The IOC requires that all sports must have their best athletes competing at the Olympics, but cricket has a busy and crowded international calendar that may clash with the Olympic dates. Some players may also prefer to play in lucrative domestic leagues rather than represent their countries at the Olympics.
Cricket’s Olympic dream
Cricket’s fate will be decided soon by the IOC members who will vote in Mumbai on October 15-16. The picture will get clearer this week itself as the IOC’s executive board will meet in Lausanne on September 8 to finalise the list of sports to be recommended for LA28.
Cricket fans and stakeholders are eagerly waiting for the outcome of these meetings, hoping that cricket will finally get its chance to shine on the Olympic stage. Cricket’s Olympic dream may be closer than ever, but it still depends on many factors and uncertainties. Only time will tell if cricket will join the elite club of Olympic sports or remain on the sidelines.