The success of the England Cricket team at the recent Women’s World Cup has added to the calls for the great game to be added to the list of Olympic sports for upcoming games. In terms of the global popularity of a single World wide sporting competition, only the football World Cup can beat it in popularity and with inclusion in the Olympics cricket could gain even greater exposure to a wider audience. That is the reason the sports of rugby and golf looked to re-join at Rio 2016, with the World Squash Federation devastated to see its status as an Olympic sport revoked as of the Tokyo 2020 games.
Historically, despite having a large global audience, boosted of course by the popularity of the sport in countries such as India and Pakistan with large populations, cricket hasn’t wanted to be part of the Olympic Games. This conservatism made sense in the original format of 5-day test cricket at international level. Things change though, and with new formats, from one-day cricket at 50 overs, to the 20/20 format, there has been an increase in popularity and a form of the game that seems much more suited to the Olympic ideal and schedule.
Now that the International Cricket Council (ICC) can add the success of the latest Women’s World Cup to its roster it is thought that the time is right to apply for entry to the Olympic Games from 2024. All that is left is for India to join the party and agree with the other major cricket nations, and the International Cricket Council in welcoming the idea of joining the Olympics.
Those in charge of the sport have embraced the idea of cricket joining the Olympics, as they can see how great it would be in terms of bringing the game to a wider global audience both for fan engagement, attendance, and participation. There has already been a rise in popularity of Rugby in a large untapped market such as China since the games in Rio last year. That sort of potential could work wonders for the growth of International cricket. Each associate nation will of course be granted with direct cash for inclusion in the games, with Rugby thought to have been given at least £25m per country since re-joining and it could be a platform to make cricket a global sport, rather than a colonial one.
It is too late for cricket to jump aboard the Olympic train in time for the 2024 games, but once the hosts of both the 2024 and 2028 games are announced by the IOC later this year there will be a chance for additional events to be discussed. There will be logistical problems, such as the qualifying format and the stadiums that would be required for the sport, but both of these can be ironed out and with Baseball returning to the Games in 2020 there is a possibility of sharing venues with that sport.
Whatever way you look at it, inclusion of the sport in the Olympic Games would be a great boost to its popularity and increase the participation in cricket for youngsters across the globe.