Cricket’s return to the Olympics after 128 years at Los Angeles 2028 was a foregone conclusion.
However, the LA Local Organising Committee’s (LALOG) proposal to include the sport, along with four others (squash, lacrosse, softball/baseball and flag football), failed to receive unanimous support at the International Olympic Committee’s 141st session as two of the 99 members voted against it.
“To have the opportunity to showcase our great sport at the LA28 Games and hopefully many Olympic Games to come will be great for players and fans alike,” International Cricket Committee (ICC) chairman Greg Barclay said. The cricket event will be a six-team affair, with the IOC and ICC yet to decide on a qualifier format.
There’s excitement among the LA organising committee about cricket’s presence in the Games and Italian triple Olympic gold medallist and LALOG sports director Niccolo Campriani hoped cricket will help the Olympic movement find newer fans, tapping into the mass hysteria the sport generates in the Indian subcontinent.
“Think [about] my friend here, Virat [Kohli]. He’s the third-most-followed athlete in the world on social media, with 314 million followers. That’s more than LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Tiger Woods combined. This is the ultimate win-win for LA 28,” Campriani said on the sidelines of the session. “We are thrilled to welcome the world’s second-most popular sport, with an estimated 2.5 billion fans worldwide.”
India’s unexpected triumph over a star-studded West Indies at the 1983 men’s ODI World Cup final had catapulted the popularity of cricket in the country, dwarfing every other sport.
“The inclusion of cricket in the Olympics is set to open new frontiers for the sport, providing unparalleled exposure in untapped global markets. We anticipate this decision will yield significant financial dividends and have a profound positive impact on our sport’s ecosystem.”Jay Shah, BCCI secretary
However, despite its growing grip over the public conscience in the Indian subcontinent, cricket, for years, has struggled to break newer grounds and create a larger footprint across the globe.
Kapil Dev, the architect of India’s 1983 fairytale triumph, believes the sport’s re-entry into the Olympic fold will help finally broaden its base. “It is a big development for cricket. It will become global and attract more nations to play the game. There is no bigger stage than the Olympics to showcase your talent. Cricket will grow hugely when it is watched by sports lovers from all over the world,” Kapil told Sportstar.
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Cricket’s inclusion was made possible after two years of intense backchannel work between the IOC and ICC, with Nita Ambani, an IOC member from India since 2016, playing a key role in building up a consensus for sports among the Olympic community.
“We are all delighted that cricket has been included as an Olympic sport for the 2028 LA Games. The sport’s inclusion will increase engagement [of the Olympic movement] with South Asian countries, not just with 1.4 billion Indians. It’s a very welcome decision for all the cricket-loving nations,” Nita said. “I’m delighted that this historic resolution was passed at the 141st IOC Session taking place right here in our country in Mumbai and also at a time when we are hosting the cricket World Cup.”
Cricket’s return and the resultant increase in broadcast revenue from the Indian subcontinent might provide a shot in the arm for the Olympic movement in the country. While the Board of Control for Cricket in India continues to see an exponential increase in its revenue – Rs 6,558.80 crore for the 2022-23 financial year, compared to an income of Rs 4,360.57 crore generated the year before – other sports and sports bodies have perennially struggled with finances.
“It is exciting to see cricket’s inclusion in the LA Olympics. Every Olympic sport in India will benefit from the added viewership that cricket will bring to the Olympics programme. This gives us an opportunity to showcase the Olympics to a larger audience and convert them into fans,” London Olympics bronze medallist and Indian Olympic Association vice-president Gagan Narang said.
“At the IOA, we are also excited about the knowledge sharing with the BCCI and the opportunity to learn from them to maximise the financial potential of sports and implement their best practices at the IOA and other sports bodies.”
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