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Should squash become an Olympic sport?

Thursday 28 February 2013, 15:58

Rachel Burden Rachel Burden 5 live Breakfast presenter

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In December Nick Matthew found himself in a vast arena of 15,000 sports fans cheering on their heroes from a huge variety of different sports and disciplines for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He might well have been wondering whether he would ever find his name being cheered, experience the standing ovations and glowing praise from sporting legends. In fact, chances are that most of those present wouldn’t know Nick Matthew - or his many outstanding achievements.

You see, Nick plays squash. He’s very good at it. In fact, he’s currently the British no. 1 and has been World Champion twice. But squash is not an Olympic sport, and so it’s off the agenda. It’s not on our radar, not even once every four years.  Nick and his fellow players are desperate for that to change.

Squash is one of eight sports competing for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics – the others are baseball/softball, karate, in-line speed skating, sport climbing, wakeboarding, wushu and wrestling. Each will argue a strong case and a decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee in September. Between now and then, 5 live Breakfast will have a go at each of the sports and hear from its major players why it should be featured in future Olympics.

Squash has many things in its favour. It has transformed itself into an exciting spectator sport by creating transparent courts – effectively a glass box that can be placed pretty much anywhere (Grand Central Station in New York recently hosted a tournament). It is a global sport, boasting of champions from all continents. It’s accessible and could readily encourage wider public participation. Plus we’re good at it here in the UK. Nick’s main rival is James Willstrop, also a former world number 1 and currently 2nd in the UK, and Laura Massaro is no. 3 in the world.

I played squash for the first time with Nick as my tutor and it was exhilarating. I could see how easy it would be to catch the bug. But let’s be fair – I haven’t yet had a taste of wushu or wrestling, so I cannot say with complete impartiality what the IOC should do. Nick and the wider squash community face an anxious wait, desperately that this could be the game’s golden break - and could bring more Olympic golden moments for GB sports fans.

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