Cricket ICC Olympics

The Sport With A Fan Base Of Over A Billion That’s Not In The Olympics, Should That Change?

By Community | August 13, 2021

Earlier this week the International Cricket Council declared their intention to bid for cricket’s inclusion in future Olympic Games, beginning with LA2028 and beyond. Our CRM Executive and Data Researcher, Abid Qidwai, looks at whether the sport warrants inclusion in the world’s biggest sporting event.

Cricket’s introduction to the countries around the world

In the first half of the 18th Century cricket established itself as a leading sport in London and the south-eastern counties of England. The spread was limited by the constraints of travel, but it was slowly gaining popularity in other parts of England, with Women’s Cricket dating back to 1745 when the first known match was played in Surrey.

Cricket was introduced to North America via the English colonies as early as the 17th century, and in the 18th century it arrived in other parts of the globe. It was introduced to the West Indies by colonists and to India by British East India Company mariners. It arrived in Australia almost as soon as colonisation began in 1788 and the sport reached New Zealand and South Africa in the early years of the 19th century. 

A win-win strategy for the Olympics & Cricket

The ICC is confident that cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics would attract partners from new markets and bring about financial sustainability to its member countries. The world governing body said that the win-win cricket-Olympics combination would diversify its member countries’ income and reduce their reliance on the ICC for income. At present, the ICC funds its associate members to develop the sport in their countries. The ICC conducted a survey among its 92 associated members, 89 per cent of them believed that they would receive annual financial support if cricket became a permanent Olympic sport.

“Cricket can provide the Olympic movement with an unrivalled opportunity to drive fan engagement across the Asian subcontinent.”

The world cricket body emphasised that cricket would offer the Olympics a vibrant platform for growth outside of the traditional Olympic strongholds. “Cricket can provide the Olympic movement with an unrivalled opportunity to drive fan engagement across the Asian subcontinent, and in turn, the Olympics can provide cricket with an unrivalled opportunity to super-charge global growth beyond its traditional heartlands, particularly in the US, Europe, and China.” says the ICC.

Could cricket be included at the Olympics in the future?

For Los Angeles 2028, cricket is eyeing the potential for entry. The global governing body for the sport has announced the formation of a working group to lead its Olympics bid. This will be chaired by England and Wales Cricket Board’s Ian Watmore, joined by the ICC independent director Indra Nooyi, Chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket Tavengwa Mukuhlani, ICC Associate Member Director and Vice-President of the Asian Cricket Council Mahinda Vallipuram and Chairman of USA Cricket Paraag Marathe.

“We believe cricket would be a great addition to the Olympic Games, but we know it won’t be easy to secure our inclusion as there are so many other great sports out there wanting to do the same. But we feel now is the time to put our best foot forward and show what a great partnership cricket and the Olympics could be,” said ICC Chair Greg Barclay.

According to Barclay, 92 per cent of cricket’s billion-plus global fans are from South Asia, referring to a statistic which also states that there are 30 million cricket fans in the USA, which the ICC has further plans to engage with in the hope of seeing substantial growth in numbers within the country.

“By 2023, the scenario would be more clear regarding the play made by ICC and USA Cricket to get the sport included in the LA2028 Olympics.”

New IOC policies also allowed the host organizing committee to add new sports to the Olympic program for just one Games. Every host country chooses a sport according to global participation and importance in their nation. Subsequently, host nation Japan this summer added baseball, softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding for Tokyo 2020. The last four of which made their Olympic debuts.

Similarly, Paris 2024 will see breakdancing make its debut, while baseball and karate are left out. By 2023, the scenario would be more clear regarding the play made by ICC and USA Cricket to get the sport included in the LA2028 Olympics, until then fingers remain crossed by the fans hoping to see the sport played in the Olympics.

Competition to Cricket in LA2028

Baseball and softball offer the biggest obstacle to cricket joining the Los Angeles 2028 program. While comparisons between the two are hackneyed, the sports have their similarities both in terms of the sports quotas required for the games, and general bat-and-ball themes. Baseball could boast a lot of heritage and popularity in the United States and especially California. But the inability of the best baseball players in the world to compete in Tokyo 2020 has made the IOC exclude baseball from Paris 2024. Skateboarding and surfing both seem to be crucial in the race besides cricket, with California having a relationship to the sport as well.

“This indicates a genuine commitment to developing the sport beyond the traditional outposts.”

Making the selection tougher is that no suitable cricket venue exists in Los Angeles at present to be included in the proposal, said the ICC. It did, however, point out that USA Cricket has plans to build at least one high-quality venue in Los Angeles. Besides the infrastructure, the ICC and USA Cricket would need hectic lobbying and a compelling campaign to push its proposal through. 

Conclusion

The ICC is trying to get to the Olympics now, for Los Angeles – not four years later when Brisbane (in cricket powerhouse Australia) plays host to the games. This indicates a genuine commitment to developing the sport beyond the traditional outposts.

The International Olympic Committee will consider proposals for any new sports to be included in the Los Angeles 2028 Games in 2024. So there is a crucial question which lies ahead and is likely in the minds of the IOC committee too – “Which sport should be an addition to the Olympics if not the second most popular sport in the world with a fan base of almost 2 billion?”

Cricket ICC Olympics