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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MUMBAI: Cricket will feature as one of five new sports at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles after being approved on Monday in a vote of the International Olympic Committee’s session.
The IOC’s executive board last week accepted a proposal by LA organizers for cricket’s Twenty20 format, together with baseball/softball, flag football, squash and lacrosse, to be included.
But the final choice still had to be voted on Monday at the IOC session in Mumbai, one of the global centers for cricket, as India hosts the men’s 50-over Cricket World Cup.
Only two delegates at the session voted against the new sports.
Organizers have proposed a six-team event, in both men’s and women’s Twenty20 cricket, the shortest form of the game.
Cricket last featured at the 1900 Paris Olympics, when a team from Britain beat a side representing France.
Adding cricket to the Olympic program is an obvious move, financially speaking.
It would tap into the lucrative South Asian market, attracting fans in countries such as India and Pakistan.
The Indian Premier League, featuring cricket’s global stars, has helped India become the unquestioned economic driving force of the sport, thanks to legions of fans and lucrative broadcasting deals in a nation where the game is almost a religion.
Mumbai is also home to the Mumbai Indians — an IPL team owned by India IOC board member Nita Ambani.
India won both men’s and women’s cricket gold medals at the recent multi-sport Asian Games in China.
Meanwhile, Major League Cricket, a professional Twenty20 League, launched in the US in July, with the US a co-host of next year’s men’s T20 World Cup together with territories in the West Indies.
“It’s a win-win situation,” International Cricket Council chairman Greg Barclay told reporters in Mumbai, of cricket’s inclusion in the LA 2028 program.
“We’ve got a global sport, what I think is the fastest-growing global sport, but getting onto the biggest sporting stage in the world, the Olympics, is a massive shot in the arm for the game,” the New Zealander added.
Explaining the push for cricket’s inclusion, Los Angeles 2028 chairman Casey Wasserman, said: “We think the opportunity to bring a sport that has 2.5 billion rabid fans to what we think is the greatest sport city in the world, it’s a really powerful combination.”
Jay Shah, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, welcomed cricket’s return to the Olympics by saying: “We are thrilled to witness this momentous occasion, which marks a significant milestone for the sport.”
He added cricket’s place in the LA 2028 program “aligns” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing Saturday that India would bid to stage the 2036 Olympics.
“Moreover, we anticipate that this decision will yield significant financial dividends and have a profound positive impact on our sport’s eco-system,” Shah added.
But IOC president Thomas Bach, speaking after Monday’s IOC session, said any financial boost would be a “consequence.”
“The first argument and the most important argument is we have seen the growing international importance of cricket and the Olympic Games want to incorporate the most popular sports worldwide,” said Bach. “This sport (cricket) also has a growing importance in the United States.”
Among the newly included US sports is flag football — a limited-contact form of American football.
Monday’s vote also saw the racquet sport of squash finally make it onto an Olympic program after several failed attempts.
Zena Wooldridge, president of the World Squash Federation, said the game is an “amazingly dynamic, diverse and demanding sport that is perfectly suited for the Olympic Games.”
There was no place, however, for the dance sport of breaking, which is set to disappear from the schedule after making its Olympic debut in Paris next year.
The IOC had set a limit of 10,500 athletes at a Games in a bid to control costs.
But the addition of five new sports to the LA program — four of them team events — is set to see that figure exceeded for the 2028 Games.
The IOC’s Olympic program commission said it would now work on ensuring the final athlete quota numbers for LA 2028 “remain reasonable.”
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