Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Olympic selections for 2016

Golf and rugby will be going into the Olympics for 2016 if the full International Olympic Committee (IOC) agrees with the recommendation the IOC Executive Board made on Thursday. Squash, softball, baseball, karate and roller sports were the other hopefuls for inclusion in the 2016 Games.

In an IOC press release, IOC President Jacques Rogge said golf and rugby "would add the most value” to the Games. The release also stated that "The key factors in determining a sport’s suitability for the Olympic programme include youth appeal, universality, popularity, good governance, respect for athletes and respect for the Olympic values."

“Golf and rugby scored high on all the criteria,” Rogge said. “They have global appeal, a geographically diverse line-up of top iconic athletes and an ethic that stresses fair play.”

You'll note, racquetball fans, that racquetball wasn't under consideration.

To Dream the Impossible Dream

It is the dream of all small sports, and yes, Virginia, racquetball is a small sport, to become big sports. The ultimate notice of achieving big sport status is the Olympics. The Racquetball Blog has addressed racquetball and the Olympics before, so we apologize to anyone who chokes a little on the dust rising from the horse we're beating.

Squash wasn't chosen, although it was under consideration and spent considerable funds on lobbying to be included. But it remains with racquetball: out of the Games. However, squash is farther ahead of racquetball in terms of the criteria cited above, especially universality. For example, there are squash courts in Africa. Indeed, three of the top four men's squash players are Egyptian, including #1 Karim Darwish.

But as far as The Racquetball Blog knows there are as many racquetball courts in Africa as there are in Antarctica. That is to say, none.

Also, you'll note that having a strong professional league isn't one of the IOC criteria. The major leagues didn't help baseball stay in the Olympic movement or get back in. Indeed, it may have hindered baseball's Olympic dream as the lack of the best players participating in the Games - due to their major league obligations - has been cited as a reason for the sport being dropped from the Olympic program.

Racquetball's international events haven't always featured the highest ranked men, although that has changed in recent years. We're sure Dave Negrete, commissioner of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), wouldn't stand in the way of any player competing internationally, although we don't think the IRT and its players were always so internationally minded in the past. For example, Jason Mannino and Cliff Swain in all their racquetball accomplishments have never played for their country.

But if racquetball was to get in the Olympics the IOC would want racquetball's best players participating. That would mean Kane Waselenchuk, although his relationship with his country's national sport organization is rocky at best.

Note that good governance is an Olympic criterion, and here's where we should all be concerned about the conduct of the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) as that can impact on the Olympic dream. We're encouraged by the IRF's success at the World Games and the possibility of further development in Asia, but concerned about relations and development in Europe.

For now, the Olympic dream remains just that for racquetball but perhaps it may one day become reality.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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