Squash will shine at the Olympics

SINGAPORE - Imagine watching an exciting game of squash between two of the world's top players at the 2020 Olympics, set against the magnificent backdrop of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Mount Fuji in Tokyo or the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

That is what the sport can offer fans and host cities alike, as it aims to be third-time lucky in its bid to be included in the Olympic Games programme.

Speaking to The New Paper on Monday, British Open champion and reigning men's world No. 1 Ramy Ashour said: "Squash has great potential. It has never been to the Olympics before... it requires only 64 players for an international tournament and with the glass courts you can make a great tournament and an amazing show out of it.

"You can put these glass courts in the most iconic locations anywhere in the world, in all sorts of lighting.

"Personally, in my country I've played in a tournament at night where the only things lit up were the glass court and the three pyramids.

"Things like that resonate with people and get them thinking about the game," added the 25-year-old, at the Tanglin Club.

Ramy (above) arrived on Monday for his maiden visit to Singapore, on invitation from his racket sponsors, Prince.

The Egyptian will take part in exhibition matches and clinics, before leaving for Malaysia on Friday.

Inclusion

Squash is up against wrestling and a joint bid from baseball and softball for inclusion at the 2020 Olympic Games programme.

One out of the three will get the nod, and a decision will be made at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting and 125th IOC Session, which will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from Sept 4 to 10.

The other key decisions to be made at the session will be the hosts for the 2020 Olympics - contested between Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid - and the successor to IOC president Jacques Rogge, with Singapore's Ng Ser Miang one of six candidates vying for the position.

Squash had previously campaigned to be included at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, only to fail on both occasions.

Over the past seven years, the sport has embraced on-court technology like video reviews, updated the way in which tournaments are promoted and secured major sponsors for the World Tour.

The sport is now played in 185 countries around the world, and world champions have come out of five continents.

Recent initiatives to raise the sport's profile, such as the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge, have won squash new fans all over the world.

Along with women's No. 1, Malaysia's Nicol David, Ramy has been helping the sport's push towards inclusion in the Olympic Games. Both players made presentations to the IOC Executive Board in Russia in May this year.

"(Presenting) was one of the hardest moments in my life; I had the same rush as if I was playing the last set in an important match," recalled Ramy.

"I never had this rush out of the court before... but it's for a good cause and I believe the sport deserves to be included in the Olympics."

On Sept 8, Ramy will feel a similar rush when he makes a final presentation before the IOC members, who will then decide the fate of squash.

Said Ramy: "It is a very entertaining and healthy sport, and inclusion in the Games will only help squash to develop even more."


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