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TV-friendly squash good fit for Games, says WSF president

Updated: 2013-04-06 08:08
By Agence France-Presse in Paris ( China Daily)

 TV-friendly squash good fit for Games, says WSF president

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 its popularity with TV viewers might help it into the Olympics in the near future. Jerry Lampen / Agence France-Presse

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 said last week.

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, under the presidency of India's Narayana Ramachandran, has implemented revolutionary changes that 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, said he and the federation had learned 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 specialized 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 Harbor 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 become a global sport, said Ramachandran.

"Anyone can pick up a racket 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."

(China Daily 04/06/2013 page11)

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