Mumbai: Cricket was on Monday formally included in the programme for the 2028 Los Angles Olympics, delivering a massive boost to the game’s global ambitions.
Besides cricket, which will be played in the T20 format, the other sports approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during its 141st session, were squash, baseball/softball, lacrosse and flag football.
IOC president Thomas Bach made the announcement of cricket’s inclusion along with the other sports after the recommendation of the Executive Board was put to vote through raise of hands.
The proposal to include the five sports recommended by LA28 Organising Committee was opposed by only two of the 99 IOC members.
Italy’s Olympic champion shooter and sports director of LA28, Niccolo Campriani, referred to Indian superstar Virat Kohli’s popularity while making the pitch to the IOC here.
“We are thrilled to welcome the world’s second most popular sport with an estimated 2.5 billion fans worldwide. Some of you would be wondering why in LA. The commitment to grow cricket in the US is real and it is already happening with the launch of Major League Cricket this year, which exceeded expectations,” he said.
“We also have the T20 World Cup in US and West Indies next year. In addition to that, we recognise the strong digital presence in order to keep the games relevant for the youth and cricket is offering a unique platform to do so. ” The Italian added:”My friend here Virat (Kohli) is the third-most followed athlete in the world with 340 million followers on social media. That is more than Le Bron James, Tom Brady and Tiger Woods combined.
“This is the ultimate win-win-win for the LA28, the IOC and cricket community as cricket will be showcased on a global stage to grow beyond the traditional cricket countries.” The massive following of cricket in India, the world’s most populous nation, and the BCCI supporting the ICC in its Olympic bid also went a long way in securing a spot in the LA28 programme.
It was only in 2021 that the BCCI changed its stance to back the game’s inclusion in the Summer Games after years of opposition fearing a threat to its autonomy.
“The inclusion of cricket in the Olympics is set to open new frontiers for the sport, providing unparalleled exposure in untapped global markets,” said BCCI secretary Jay Shah.
“Moreover, we anticipate that this decision will yield significant financial dividends and have a profound positive impact on our sport’s eco-system.
“It will fuel infrastructural development, intensify competition, foster youth development, and create opportunities for officials, volunteers, and skilled professionals,” he added.
Bach said the five chosen sports are a perfect fit for LA28.
“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. “These sports will make the Olympic Games LA28 unique. Their inclusion will allow the Olympic Movement to engage with new athlete and fan communities in the US and globally.” Cricket has been played in the Olympics only once before, in Paris in 1900, when England defeated France.
The value of the IOC broadcast deal in India is likely to go up substantially following the announcement.
From the reported 15.6 million pounds for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the broadcast deal in India could fetch as much as 150 million pounds for the 2028 edition.
The International Cricket Council (ICC), the game’s governing body, was delighted at the announcement.
“The addition of cricket in the Olympics, for the first time since 1900, concludes a two-year process, in which the ICC worked extensively to develop an exciting proposal that supports the Olympic values and LA28’s mission to create an unparalleled experience for athletes, fans, partners and the local community,” said the ICC in a statement.
Bach said a strong cricket economy in the Indian subcontinent had no bearing on the decision to include the sport in the LA Games after the conclusion of the second day’s proceedings in the IOC Session. “This is not a consideration which comes in the first line, this can be the consequence and we have to see the first argument, and the most important argument is that we have seen the international importance of cricket and that the Olympic Games want to represent (and) incorporate the most popular sports worldwide,” Bach said.
“The sport also has growing importance in the United States, therefore this proposal was very much welcomed. It has to be implemented whatever consequences it has,” he added.
Bach, however, reminded that cricket in Olympics is only for the Los Angeles Games as of now, since the decision to include it in Brisbane Games 2032 and beyond would be taken later.
“It is too early to say. This will also depend on Brisbane 2032 and I cannot comment. The decision today was for the program in 2028, and for this edition of Olympic Games only,” he said.