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    As the 2020-21 Squash World Championships get underway today, I'm struck by the absence of the sport on the Olympic program. One wonders what sin squash must have committed to result not being included ever.

    It's not like the sport hasn't recently tried. The World Squash Federation (WSF)'s bids for inclusion were unsuccessful for the Games in 2012, 2016, 2020, and now 2024. It certainly is a head-scratcher, as there are so many boxes checked for what fits as an Olympic sport.

    So, here's my pitch:

    History
    Similar to its racket sport cousin badminton, squash has its origins in the British mid-1800s. The first national association for squash, now U.S. Squash, was formed in 1904, and the oldest squash tournament, the British Open Squash Championships, were first held in 1929. The Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Championships separated from the British Open as a stand-alone event in 1976, and is now considered the crowning event to the seasonal PSA World Tour.

    Diversity
    It's truly a global sport. The WSF counts 50,000 courts worldwide, and a membership of almost 150 nations. The top 10 seeds for the World Championships across both men's and women's fields represent eight different nations and all six continental regions: Africa (Egypt), Asia (India), Europe (France, Great Britain), North America (United States), Oceania (New Zealand), and South America (Colombia, Peru). Players from Switzerland, Latvia, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Hong Kong, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, Czech Republic, and Belgium are also in the fields. Legendary players in squash history have also come from Malaysia (Nicol David), Pakistan (Jansher Khan) - both eight-time world champions - and Australia (five-time winner Sarah Fitzgerald).   Athletic Stars
    These are serious, professional athletes. The World Championship total pot is $1 million U.S., while the prize for World Tour events can reach $175,000 U.S. for both men and women. Nicol David, widely recently voted as the World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time, has an estimated net worth over $1 million U.S. from career earnings and endorsements.   Nicol David was world champion a record eight times   Urban
    Squash can be played right within urban centers. New York's J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions is played inside Grand Central Station. San Francisco's Oracle NetSuite Open is played alongside the Embarcadero's Ferry Building. The World Championships this year will be inside Chicago's University Club. Wherever one might put, say, a breakdancing or 3x3 basketball court, or a beach volleyball sandpit, one could put a squash court.   Sustainability
    The PSA uses an all-glass, portable court ringed by temporary grandstand seating that is easily transported, set up, and broken down. There's no need to build new infrastructure.   Fan Accessibility
    And, that glass court allows for spectator intimacy with the action. Similar to tennis, squash tournaments are straightforward single elimination events, so competition is fast-paced and athletic - and can be easily consumed by fans. A tournament with fields of 32 for both men and women can easily be finished in less than a week.   The next Olympic opportunity for squash won't be until Los Angeles 2028. But that may be a longshot, too, as baseball and softball are likely to make a comeback. Lacrosse and cricket are making inroads, too. Karate, in for Tokyo 2020 but out for Paris 2024, would also be in the mix. And, it's unlikely a different spot would open up from the existing core sports.   Here's French star Gregory Gaultier probably pondering what an Olympic medal would look like around his neck

    It's a shame, as the global, engaging nature of the sport fits well within the Olympics. I'm not sure what the reluctance has been - too elite? (more so than golf?), too exclusive? (more than artistic swimming?) not practical? (um, the portable glass court...) not hip enough? (refer back to Nicol David's popularity, for one) - but the diversity, ease of engagement, and history of the sport deserve a spotlight.

    It's well past time.   This opinion piece originally appeared at gamesandrings.com.

    The International Olympic Committee announced the Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 on Tuesday, and as a connoisseur of multi-sports games, I found myself curious as to the multi-sports games credentials of the athletes selected for the team. 
     
    I began my quest for knowledge by consulting an archive of multi-sports games results dating from the early 2000s to the present. While the search itself took a few hours, having to comb through results of various multi-sports games, it did produce some interesting factoids about a few members of the Refugee Olympic Team. 
     
    The first “hit” in the database was for athletics participant, Dorian Keletela. Keletela ran as a representative of the host country, Republic of Congo, back at the 2015 African Games. He was entered into the 100m and clocked a time of 10.68 in the heats. He failed to advance out of the heats, thus ending his pursuit of gold. This was also his only recorded participation at a multi-sports games. 

    The second athlete to pop up during the search was Wessam Salamana. Salamana competed in boxing at the 2010 Asian Games as a representative of the Syrian Arab Republic. Salamana actually enjoyed relative success at the Games, beating opponents from Timor-Leste, Republic of Korea, and Bhutan on his way to earning a bronze medal. In fact, his only loss came in the semifinals when he was defeated by the eventual gold medalist from Thailand. The 2010 Asian Games would mark Salamana’s only participation at a multi-sports games, but he’ll definitely be hoping to relive his time on the podium at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
     
    The next athlete to appear in the database also registered a start for the Syrian Arab Republic. Ahmad Badreddin Wais competed for the country in cycling at the 2018 Mediterranean Games. He recorded results in both the road race and time trial. In the road race, Badreddin Wais finished in 47th place and outside the time limit. However, he faired much better in the time trial placing 16th out of 20 riders, only 2:55 behind the winner of the event. He will likely be hoping for a similar performance in the time trial during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
     
    Perhaps the most prolific multi-sports games athlete on the Refugee Olympic Team is Javad Mahjoub. Mahjoub competed for the Islamic Republic of Iran at both the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games. His performances in Judo at both Games were full of ups-and-downs. At the 2010 Asian Games he managed to win his first match, before subsequently losing two matches, including one in the repechage round. He faired slightly better at the 2014 Asian Games, qualifying for the bronze medal match after losing in the semifinal stage. Unfortunately, he finished the competition in 5th place after a loss in the bronze medal match. He will definitely be hoping for improved results at Tokyo 2020.
     
    The last athlete to appear in the database was Cyrille Fagat Tchatchet II. Tchatchet II participated in weightlifting at the 2014 Commonwealth Games representing the country of Cameroon. He managed a very respectable result at the Games finishing his event in 5th place ahead of 15 other lifters. In total, he managed to lift 315kg during the -85kg competition. The 2014 Commonwealth Games would also mark the end of his multi-sports games journey until it was announced he made the Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020.
     
    In total, these five athletes represent only a small part of the Refugee Olympic Team. However, these five athletes also show that the Refugee Olympic Team is not to be taken lightly in Tokyo. While they might not be favorites for medals, they are experienced competitors at this level, and will be ready to give it their all in Tokyo. 
     
    For those who missed the announcement of the Refugee Olympic Team, a full list of the athletes selected can be found here.
     

    Cuba has a storied history of success in the Olympic Games. Since its Games debut at Paris 1900, its much-vaunted boxers have won 73 medals (second only to the United States), and its fabled baseball program has won three of five golds (and won silver the other two times). Outside of those two signature sports, Cuba has made its mark in other sports, notably track & field, judo, wrestling, and even fencing. The women's volleyball team won three straight golds between 1992 and 2000, with a bronze in 2004. At Barcelona 1992, Cuba hit its high point in the medal count - 31 total, and fifth place in the medal count. Those were the Games of high jumper Javier Sotomayor, boxer Felix Savon, and middle-distance runner Ana Quirot. Boxers, including Savon, won nine of 12 possible medals (including seven gold). Women's volleyball started their three-gold streak. Judo and wrestling saw gold medal wins, too. Cuba won the inaugural baseball tournament.

    For the next four Games, the island nation experienced a consistent level of high performance: 25 medals at Atlanta 1996, 29 at Sydney 2000, 27 at Athens 2004, and 30 at Beijing 2008. Those years, there was an admirable sense of Cuba being able to 'punch above its weight' in its success. Despite increasing isolation as a lone socialist state burdened by economic sanctions, its athletic programs remained a vibrant, vital area of showcase pride for the nation. But the last two Olympics has seen its star power ebb. Cuba managed only 15 medals at London 2012 and 11 at Rio 2016. As well, after reaching second in the Pan American Games medal table in 2011, Cuba dropped to fourth in 2015 and sixth in 2019.  And now, and despite its legendary aura in the sport, Cuba will not qualify for Tokyo 2020's baseball tournament. Given its recent slide  - in the WBSC Premier12 event in 2019, Cuba ranked tenth and last alongside Netherlands and Puerto Rico - the result in qualifying isn't too surprising. But the Cuban absence will be noticed given the team's legacy in the sport. For sentiment's sake, one hopes Cuban baseball doesn't follow that lead and can make a comeback in time for Los Angeles 2028. But history is  not a promising guide.

    That women's volleyball team of the mid-to-late 1990s suffered a similar fall. After just missing the podium in fourth place at Beijing 2008, the team has failed to make an Olympics since. They placed 21st and 22nd in the last two World Championships, and came nowhere near Tokyo 2020 qualification after finishing sixth in the 2019 NORCECA Championship, with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico ahead and taking bragging rights for current Caribbean power.
    As far as the nation's boxers, they will again be standard bearers, with Tokyo 2020 qualification in each of the eight men's weight classes (but note, no women's). Collectively, the Tokyo-bound team already has six Olympic medals dating from as far back as Beijing 2008 - a sign of longevity, but also of a lack of younger athletes breaking through. Judo, wrestling, and track & Field again promise the best chance for medal support to boxing this summer, but the nation will probably be hard-pressed to significantly improve its results from Rio 2016.

    Cuba's sport prowess has certainly diminished. Has the difficulty in maintaining a consistently strong sports development feeder system in its closed society finally taken a toll? There's a good opportunity for a socio-economic study in the question. In the meantime, this summer's Games quickly approach. Can Cuba again rise to consistent sporting heights?   This opinion was originally published on gamesandrings.com on June 2, 2021.

    Panam Sports has reached an agreement with the University of Miami and the Mexican Consulate in Miami to receive 4,000 vaccines that will be used to help ensure the health of the athletes and officials who will participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
     
    Panam Sports has already sent an official document to all the National Olympic Committees to inform them of this opportunity. The organization will cover the cost of the air tickets for those who travel to Miami to receive their vaccines. 
     
    National Olympic Committees have been asked to send their request listing the athletes and officials they wish to be vaccinated as soon as possible so they can be inoculated at least 30 days before entering Japan. 
     
    Athletes and officials participating in this year’s 2021 Junior Pan American Games will also be eligible to receive the vaccine under this offer.
     
    Panam Sports is the first continental sports governing body to secure and offer vaccines to athletes and officials.

    “We know that in many of our countries throughout the continent it is very difficult to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Therefore, we have made a significant effort to reach this outstanding agreement that will help all of the athletes who have not had the chance to become inoculated. Now these athletes have the opportunity to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States, and thus travel with better protection to compete at the Tokyo Olympics,” said Panam Sports President, Neven Ilic.

    “I want to offer my greatest appreciation to the University of Miami, the Mexican Consulate in Miami, and our Executive Committee member, Jimena Saldaña. They all helped us achieve our goal of vaccinating the athletes and officials who will participate in Tokyo, as well as those who will be in Cali this November,” Ilic added.
     

    The Cali-Valle 2021 Junior Pan American Games will now take place between November 25 and December 5.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed yet another victim in the world of international multi-sports games. The 2021 Junior Pan American Games originally scheduled to be held from September 9 to September 19 have been postponed by around two and a half months and will now open in late November. 
     
    According to Panam Sports, the Pan American region has been one of the most affected by Covid-19. While Panam Sports and local organizers were encouraged by the recent progress in vaccinations around the region, they still felt like there was more work to be done in the fight against Covid-19.

    Speaking on the decision to postpone, Panam Sports President Neven Ilic, said the following remarks, “After several months of meetings with the Colombian authorities, we have adopted this measure that we believe is the best option to protect the health of our young athletes. We want to give more time for both the organizing country and the participating nations to advance in their vaccination processes. This will allow more delegations and the largest number of people to be inoculated against Covid-19 when the Games begin.”

    Cali-Valle 2021 Executive Director, Jose Luis Echeverry, also spoke about the decision to postpone. He stated, “The decision we have made is very positive. It will be very beneficial to be able to wait a little longer given the emergency caused by Covid-19 not only in Colombia, but throughout the continent. With this new date, it gives us the possibility of having safer Games for everyone because when the time comes, we will have a higher vaccination rate in the host country.”

    The first Junior Pan American Games of Cali 2021 will bring together more than 3,800 athletes from 41 countries who will compete in 39 disciplines. The gold medalist(s) in each sport will automatically qualify for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games.

    Further information about the Games can be found at www.calivalle2021.com or www.panamsports.org.
     

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