Cricket is one of the most popular sports across the world but it hasn’t found a place in the Olympics. It did feature once in the quadrennial event more than a century ago. However, cricket failed to make an impact and has not been a part of the Olympics since.
The sport of cricket was tried as one of the events in the 1900 Paris Olympics. The experiment failed. Various reasons, including the fact that is not played by the majority of the nations around the world, prevented cricket from being played at the Olympics ever again.
The sport of cricket does have a huge fan base and is probably only second to soccer in that regard. However, it seems to have done no good for the sport, when it comes to being a part of Olympics.
Although cricket is played in 105 countries across the world, only a handful of teams have Test status. Moreover, the World Cup (the sport’s marquee tournament) only features a maximum of 10-12 teams.
Cricket’s only appearance at the Olympics
Cricket was added as an event in the first modern Olympics at Athens in 1896. The sport failed to draw enough entries and was shelved from the Games.
However, at the Paris Games in 1900, Great Britain, Belgium, Holland and France were scheduled to participate in the Games. The situation changed when Belgium and Holland withdrew from the Games. France played against Great Britain, with the hosts losing the match.
Needless to say, the sport has never featured at the Olympics since then.
Factors working against cricket’s inclusion
Although cricket has a global fan following, the sport has failed to make a mark in countries which dominate the Olympics. The host nations, also being non-cricketing countries, hasn’t helped the sports’ cause to get an inclusion in the prestigious quadrennial event.
The time factor also works against cricket’s cause for inclusion in the Olympics. While there has been a T20 revolution in the last decade, larger versions of the game take too much time and energy to be conducted on a large-scale at the Summer Games.
Another reason for cricket being avoided at the Olympics is the financial factor. Long matches that require a lot of technical assistance and have very few interested countries in viewing the sport are not a great addition to any event.
Cricket is already under immense pressure to popularize the existing three formats simultaneously. Competing with other sports which don’t have to contend with multiple formats works as a disadvantage for cricket’s inclusion at the Olympics as well.
While the game might eventually gain popularity with many nations beginning to embrace the sport, the current scenario is still quite discouraging for new nations entering the fray of international cricket.
Cash-crunched boards and associate nations are only getting to play a handful of games while the cash-rich boards of India, England, Australia and New Zealand hog the limelight with lucrative tours and tournaments.
A packed cricket calendar is another reason why cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics is being deferred. The advent of T20 leagues across the world has already crippled the players’ endurance and with more money being pumped into private leagues, national duty sometimes comes a distant second.
How can cricket be a part of the Olympics?
Although cricket is not at the Olympics, the sport has currently submitted a bid to get included in the quadrennial event. An Olympic-host nation can make a bid for the inclusion of the sport based on the host city’s cricketing culture and such a decision will not be binding on the future Games’ host.
That means if Paris were to submit a bid to include cricket at the 2024 Games, it does not necessarily mean Los Angeles, hosting the event in 2028, needs to include the sport.
Should the International Olympic Committee be involved, with significant funding, the sport could be a regular at the Olympics. However, as long as the World Cup, Ashes and the ICC Champions Trophy hog more limelight than an Olympic medal, cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics will be in limbo.
In simple words, presently cricket is not at the Olympics because it does not fit the bill for either party to make it a successful event at the Summer Games.