The Olympics seemed a lot simpler when Montreal hosted the summer games in 1976. Yes, there were some bizarre sports that seemed better suited to ancient Greece (hammer throw anyone?). But at least these bizarre sports were ones we knew well from previous games – and we were very familiar with most of the other stuff (like cycling, rowing, swimming, and running).
Times have changed
While many sports have been added and dropped from the modern Olympic games over the years, some new additions for 2020 certainly catch the eye – namely sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding.
All of these sports have been added to the exclusion of a sport – played by 20 million people worldwide – that has been working to be recognized as an Olympic sport for decades: squash.
The most recent pitch by the World Squash Federation was for squash to be included in the 2024 games in Tokyo – and it was confident that it had met all the criteria. But in February, the International Olympic Committee chose another sport to be added instead of squash: breakdancing.
You can read about the reaction of the squash community here. In short, they were stunned. Millions play the game, television coverage has increased, and it’s recognized as one of the most demanding sports to play.
But Olympic organizers have stated that their agenda is more youth-focused and more urban, which is why skateboarding and breakdancing are in and squash is out.
On the one hand, I get it. Squash has an elitist history (there was a squash court on the Titanic, available to first class passengers) and it’s mostly played in expensive clubs. Breakdancing and skateboarding are available to all, for next to nothing in cost. And they are fun to watch too.
On the other hand, if the Olympics continues to include even more elitist sports like equestrian, it seems unfair to exclude an individual sport that has a storied history, gender balance, and active youth programs worldwide.
I look forward to watching the skateboarding and breakdancing competitions in coming Olympic games. Don’t get me wrong. But I’ll shed a tear for a sport I think deserves a place on the podium as well.
Now, if we could just get rid of that hammer throw…
Thanks for reading!
Ian M. Hull