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The London Olympics is moving into its final week but the hype around this monumental event is not diminishing, primarily as a result of the unprecedented success of team GB. With sports such as football and tennis featuring in the Olympic Games it is only natural that questions about the potential for cricket to become part of the Olympics are being raised.
Strangely enough, cricket has featured in a past Olympic Games; in 1900 a cricket tournament was played as part of the Olympics. The original entry to the tournament was four nations but the withdrawal of two left only France and Great Britain; Great Britain were victorious though the teams were far from the professional sides we see today. Neither side was nationally selected, in fact the British team was a touring side from Devon and the French team was primarily made up of British ex-patriots. Cricket has been absent from the games ever since, however in recent times cricket has made a resurgence in multi-sport tournaments; in 2010 cricket made its debut in the Asian Games.
So, should cricket have a renaissance at the Olympics? Former England coach David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd thinks not, he tweeted: “Can’t see cricket in the Olympics, not enough countries play.” His twitter followers responded to this on mass, some commenting that cricket should not feature as it would not be the pinnacle of the sport; others argued that hockey, which features in the Olympics, is played by a similarly small number of countries and therefore this should not stop cricket from being included. The fear that the Olympics would not be the pinnacle of the cricket calendar has been highlighted by others; Sussex batsmen Luke Wells argued that it would be fantastic for cricket to be part of the Olympics but, “the teams entered should be the best possible, the Olympics should be the pinnacle of the sport.”
This fear has also been voiced about football and tennis for whom the Olympics are not the pinnacle. However, the problem of the Olympics not being the pinnacle of sport is spreading to the more traditional sports in the games and is consequently becoming less of a problem. Arguably, the Olympics is evolving and becoming more about bringing the world together and encouraging participation rather than attempting to place itself at the pinnacle of all sports. Examples of this come from the velodrome and the athletics track; in cycling, new rules have been brought in limiting the number of competitors in each event to one per nation. Consequently stars of the sport, and definite medal contenders, are not competing in the Olympics because they are unlucky enough to have a countryman who is a more likely winner of gold. The most obvious example of this in London is undoubtedly Sir Chris Hoy who was not given the chance to defend his sprint title because the sole British place went to Jason Kenny. Similarly, in athletics, although we were treated to a spectacular 100m Olympic final, it was the Jamaican trials earlier this year which were hailed as possibly the best race we would ever see; unfortunately Jamaica could only bring three sprinters to London.
While not being the pinnacle of the sport, bringing cricket to the Olympics would embody much of what the modern Olympics is about; unity and participation. The inclusion of cricket in the Olympics would aid the expansion and development of cricket throughout the world, particularly for the host nation who would receive an automatic spot and funding from the IOC to build a team if it did not already exist. In addition, cricket would receive more exposure outside of the normal cricket following nations making it possible for more people around the world to take up the sport. The addition of cricket to the Olympics would not be plain sailing; there would be issues with fitting the Olympic Games into an already packed international calendar. Moreover, it is unlikely that the increasingly money driven world of cricket would respond well to the little fiscal value of competing.
Cricket should not be dismissed as an Olympic sport; the tagline for this games is “inspire a generation” and the inclusion of cricket would undoubtedly do that. Whether the impact would be profound enough to justify its inclusion is open to debate, though with the emphasis of the Olympic Games moving away from being the sporting pinnacle, cricket should not be excluded on this basis alone.
© Cricket World 2012
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