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Inclusion of Sports in the Olympic Games

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By Ellie McVeigh |

The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games are fast approaching in 2020 and thousands of athletes across the world are in intense training for the big event. For the most popular activities, such as swimming and athletics, competitors and spectators alike are anticipating the return of the staple sports that have been represented in the Olympics for centuries.

The accolade of representing your country in your chosen sport is possibly unmatched for athletes at the highest levels, however, many prominent sports are denied the opportunity of such representation.

In early 2019, breakdancing was first proposed for inclusion in the Paris Olympic Games in 2024. Not necessarily a ‘traditional’ sport, I ponder over the criteria that breakdancing meets that gives it the edge over other, more obvious, sports such as squash. As a division one college squash player and someone who has competitively participated in the sport for over a decade, its consistent unrecognition becomes disheartening and, without justification from the International Olympic Committee, simultaneously more baffling.

Squash is the healthiest sport in the world. It involves intense levels of cardiovascular and muscular endurance, flexibility and strength, while also burning the most calories in 30 minutes than any other sport. The athletes that participate in squash train at these high levels every day, rivalling the professional athletes taking part in the Olympic Games.

Why are athletes, training at these intense levels, denied the opportunity of reaching for a gold medal? It is difficult to pour your blood, sweat and tears into a sport that is regularly dismissed in order to ‘modernise’ and make the Olympics ‘more urban’ for its spectators.

Earlier in the year, I participated in a radio broadcast regarding squash’s recent defeat by breakdancing for consideration in the Olympic Games. Through this experience, I realised that it appears to come down to the crowds that can be drawn in by each of the sports. Previously contended that squash is ‘too high-paced’ for spectators to keep track of the ball, modern imagining techniques have rendered this argument outdated. On top of this, an all-glass squash court can be located anywhere in the world. The sheer breathlessness of the scene of squash courts situated in front of the pyramids in Egypt demonstrates the sport’s ability to draw in a high spectatorship.

With squash’s evident health benefits, apparent physical difficulty and its own modernisation into a spectator sport, the IOC’s continued lack of support and recognition becomes increasingly unjustified and frustrating.

More explicit criteria for sport being granted permission into the Olympic Games should exist, with more being done to support and justify to those athletes without sport in the Games. It continues to be a difficult and agonising pursuit of recognition for squash players to have that opportunity to compete at the highest level. Without communication, it becomes unbearable. These athletes want to be pushing themselves and striving for a place on top of that Olympic podium. They just need to be given a chance.

Ellie McVeigh is a student at Columbia University in the City of New Yorkand a Division 1 athlete.

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