Manchester squash community heartbroken as wrestling clinches Olympic Games spot

Eve Commander

The world of squash has been left deflated after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced its rejection for the game to be part of the 2020 games this week, a disappointing verdict for the Manchester squash club.

At its 125th conference, baseball also lost out as the IOC decided to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic sport for the upcoming games in Japan.

Of the three sports who bid to be part of the games, wrestling won 49 votes, followed by baseball with 24 and squash with just 22. This is the third time squash has been rejected by the IOC, the World Squash Federation (WSF) having made unsuccessful bids to be included in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

The Chairman of the City of Manchester Squash Club, Hirusha Henricus, in Sportcity, was involved in the events held at the centre to promote the 2020 bid and said he was ’very disappointed’ at the announcement:

“We held a lot of community events and were involved in The Big Hit Campaign which the WSF launched offering free taster sessions to encourage local people to come and play,” he said.

He also suggested that the sport’s lack of financial pull may have swayed the IOC’s latest rejection.

“The sport hasn’t got as many followers (as wrestling) so maybe the IOC though it couldn’t make as much money,” he added.

Womens’ squash number one, Nicol David watched the IOC session live as they made the announcement on September 7 and tweeted in response to another WSF failed campaign:

“We presented squash at our very best to the IOC & WSF put up a strong case and it’s disappointing that squash missed out today but our Vote4Squash campaign has brought the squash world closer,” she said.

Gaining Olympic status has long been a priority for the WSF and, given the huge impetus sports such as cycling have got from the Olympics the latest rejection is a blow for those wanting to raise the sport’s international profile.

Whilst racket sports such as tennis, table tennis and badminton have been successfully added to the Olympics, it remains a surprise for many that squash, voted healthiest sport in the world by Forbes Magazine in 2003, struggles to make it into the games’ packed itinerary.

After the IOC rejected their previous two bids the WSF has worked hard to increase participation levels and in 2009 squash emerged as one of the top ten most popular sports among adults in England, according to a Sport England survey.

Despite the latest set-back on the international stage, Mr Henricus said that the sport was ‘still expanding’ and that during the four years he has been chairman of City of Manchester Squash Club, their membership has almost quadrupled:

“Our membership has gone to 70/80 from around 20. At one point we had around four people coming down to training sessions,” he said.

The earliest the WSF can now hope to qualify as an Olympic sport is the 2024 games, meaning there will be a ten year wait before squash can be seen on the world’s greatest sporting stage.

Picture courtesy of University of Nottingham via Flickr, with thanks.

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