Olympics: Cricket, in T20 avatar, set to make an entry from LA 2028
The US’ growing involvement in the sport, along with lure of mega broadcast deals, tilt the IOC towards the game ahead of executive board meeting on Friday
To be or not to be? After much dithering by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the years, the decks are likely to be cleared for inclusion of cricket – in its T20 avatar – in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
Come Friday (September 8), the executive board of IOC meet under the chairmanship of it’s president Thomas Bach in Lausanne to take a call on the sports programme for the Los Angeles edition. There are a number of other disciplines which have pitched for inclusion in the Games: karate, flag football, kickboxing, baseball-softball, lacrosse, breakdancing, squash and motorsport but insiders feel that the potential of monetisation from TV broadcasting – along with the current cricket boom in the US – makes it a strong favourite to get the nod.
The decision will then be ratified in the IOC Congress in Mumbai on October 15-16 where more than 100 member nations will vote for the inclusion of new sports in LA in five year’s time. The next edition of the Summer Games, meanwhile, is due in Paris next year.
The only time cricket was played at the Olympics was in 1900, where a one-off gold medal match was played between two teams representing Britain and France. There had been a lot of deliberations in recent years to get cricket on board, but things didn’t get moving due to the IOC’s rigid policy on including one sport only if another was dropped and the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) indifference.
However, the impact of the burgeoning T20 format (read: IPL) which has led to clones in all cricket-playing countries – and now the US with the introduction of Major League Cricket (MLC) – has certainly put cricket on a favourable pitch for inclusion in the Games. US, with it’s overwhelming diaspora from the cricket-playing nations, will also be hosting the next T20 World Cup in 2024.
An Indian Express report says Indian broadcasters Viacom 18, the sports broadcasting arm of Reliance Group, paid approximately $31 million to bag the rights to show the Olympics, including the Paris Games. American network NBC, meanwhile, paid $7.65 billion for a deal that runs from 2021 to 2032.
“If you look at all the regions around the world, the one area where frankly the Olympic Games is not nearly as strong as elsewhere in the sub-continent, you know, India, Pakistan. And if you were to bring cricket onto the Olympic programme, it would have a major impact,” remarked Michael Payne, a former marketing and broadcast rights director of the IOC.
Incidentally, the 2032 Olympics is scheduled in Brisbane while India have expressed their interest in bidding to host the Olympics in 2036 with the selection process still in the nascent stages. Inclusion of cricket, should it happen, couldn’t be better-timed as it’s a major sport in Australia and as the cliché goes – a ‘religion’ in India.
The ICC has pitched the T20 format for the Olympics, with five teams in men and women’s categories likely to feature in LA. The stadium currently being built by the IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders, one of the founding investors in the Major League, is expected to host the matches.