(AFP) – Cricket’s more than 100-year Olympic exile moved closer to ending after the sport was approved for inclusion at the 2028 Los Angeles Games by the International Olympic Committee’s executive board on Friday.
IOC president Thomas Bach, speaking after the second day of an executive board meeting in Mumbai, said officials had accepted a proposal by LA organisers for Twenty20 cricket to be included as one of five new sports together with baseball/softball, flag football (non-contact American football), squash and lacrosse.
But the final choice of which sports are on the 2028 programme will be voted on Monday at the IOC session in Mumbai, one of the hotbeds of cricket, as India hosts the men’s 50-over Cricket World Cup.
“For the IOC, it is a great opportunity to engage with new athlete and fan communities,” said Bach.
“We see the growing popularity of T20 cricket and we look forward to welcoming the world’s best players to the US in 2028,” he added.
Los Angeles chiefs have proposed a six-team event, in both men’s and women’s T20 cricket, with the United States set to field sides as the host nation.
But no firm decision on the number of teams or how they are qualified will be taken unless and until cricket receives formal ratification on Monday.
Cricket last featured at the 1900 Paris Olympics, when a team from Britain beat a side representing France.
The sport has made moves towards a return to the Games for more than a decade, with the encouragement of the Olympic movement.
Adding cricket to the Olympic programme is an obvious move, financially speaking.
It would tap into the lucrative south Asian market, attracting fans in countries such as India and Pakistan.
T20 cricket is the sport’s shortest international format.
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.
– ‘Win-win situation’ –
Cricket, which originated in England, developed as a global sport via the growth of the British Empire, with its leading established nations including Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.
But Bach said were cricket to be included at the Olympic Games it would strengthen its appeal beyond the sport’s traditional nations.
“This is a win-win situation,” he said. “This will give cricket an opportunity to grow beyond traditional territories and nations.”
Bach added the proposed new sports were well-suited to what will be the first Summer Olympics staged in the United States since the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“The choice of these five new sports is in line with the American sports culture and will showcase iconic American sports to the world, while bringing international sports to the United States,” he said.
“These sports will make the Olympic Games LA28 unique.”
Modern pentathlon, featuring obstacle racing rather than horse-riding, and weightlifting have also been restored to the programme.
IOC sports director Kit McConnell said the proposed schedule would see LA 2028 exceeding the IOC’s previously announced limit of 10,500 athletes — a quota imposed to limit the host nation’s costs in staging a Games.
McConnell added the IOC aimed to “limit the increase, but limit the impact on the existing sport”.
Meanwhile, the status of boxing at the 2028 Games remains uncertain after the IOC stripped the International Boxing Association of its recognition following a dispute over how the sport is governed.