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TV-friendly squash right for Games, says president

PARIS (AFP) –

Nicol David of Malaysia competes in the Australian Open squash tournament in Canberra in August 19, 2012

Nicol David of Malaysia competes in the Australian Open squash tournament in Canberra in August 19, 2012. Squash’s evolution as a TV-friendly sport, played against some of the world’s most dramatic backdrops, should serve it well in its bid to become an Olympic sport in 2020, its federation president told AFP on Friday.

Squash’s evolution as a TV-friendly sport, played against some of the world’s most dramatic backdrops, should serve it well in its bid to become an Olympic sport in 2020, its federation president told AFP on Friday.

Squash lost out to rugby sevens and golf in the campaign to replace baseball and softball for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

But the World Squash Federation (WSF), under the presidency of India’s Narayana Ramachandran, has implemented revolutionary changes which have boosted its attraction for the global television viewer.

This aspect had already weighed heavily on IOC members’ minds when they came to vote in 2009.

However, Ramachandran, who was elected to the post in 2008, told AFP he and the federation had learnt from the previous candidacy and, having consulted with IOC members after the 2009 decision, had taken steps to fine-tune this new bid.

“It is totally different to two to three years ago,” he said, speaking by phone from London.

“There are all glass courts, glass floors, under-floor lighting, we have Hawkeye like in cricket and tennis, reviews by referees and slow motion replays.

“In short we have more broadcast experience and our own specialised team that goes from event to event. We can say that our sport has the highest broadcast quality.”

Ramachandran said another benefit of squash was its inexpensiveness and that it can be played at some spectaular sites.

Tournaments over the past few years have been played in iconic locations such as The Pyramids, Grand Central Station and alongside Hong Kong Harbour in front of IOC members.

“All we need is two courts which can be set up in iconic locations at whichever bid city wins the right to host the 2020 Games. So, for instance, it could be near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul,” he said.

“We will only have 64 competitors — 32 men and women, and 20 officials. So it is very economical.”

Squash, which appears at every other major multi-sport event, from the Asian Games to the Commonwealth Games, has truly become a global sport, said Ramachandran.

“Anyone can pick up a racquet and a ball and hit it against a wall,” he said.

“We now have tournaments as far afield as Paraguay and China. There have been world champions from all five continental federations and thus it is a sport that offers genuine medal prospects to a whole host of countries.

“In terms of prize money we are moving towards equality for both men and women.”

Squash is in competition with six other sports bidding for inclusion plus wrestling, which was recommended to be excluded by the IOC’s 15 member Executive Board in February.

All eight sports will make presentations to the Executive Board at a meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, at the end of May.

They will then vote and could recommend up to three sports.

The final decision as to which of the sports appear at the 2020 Games will be put to a vote of all IOC members at their Congress in Buenos Aires in early September.

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