Squash stands a very good chance for 2024 Olympics: WSF vice president

WSF vice president Huang Ying How said squash being showcased as a “demo event” in the Youth Olympics Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires in October may pave a way for its inclusion in the 2024 Olympics. 

Huang Ying How watching a match at the Asian junior individual squash championships in the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai on Friday.   -  Special Arrangement

World Squash Federation (WSF) vice president Huang Ying How said squash being showcased as a “demo event” in the Youth Olympics Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires in October might give the International Olympic Committee an opportunity to see how global the sport is, probably boosting its chances for inclusion in the 2024 Olympics. 

“We want to demonstrate to the World we are international. We’re having players from all around the World for the event - Asia, South America, Europe, and so on. Though it's just a demo event, we are shipping an all-glass court at a great cost, so that we can present it as well as we would had it been a major professional squash event. And hopefully, the IOC will notice our diversity. It will also show that the squash family is serious, that when we are given an opportunity we do it seriously.

“It's not the first time we are doing a demo event. We've done it in Nanjing for some major multi-sport global event, as far as I remember. We need to show the World we deserve to be in the Olympics. And I think, year after year, every country is getting better (in playing), the way squash is being presented is getting better. I hope eventually the IOC recognises this is a World sport that is to be in the Olympics.”

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On the chances for the sport’s inclusion in the 2024 Olympics, he said: “The first step is the Paris Olympic Organising Committee. I think squash is in with a good chance this time. Because I believe France has a very strong squash scene, unlike Japan where perhaps squash is not as developed as it is in France. But we will not know for another year, or two years. The announcement will be done after the Tokyo Olympics. By 2019, I think they will confirm if we are on the list to be considered."

Huang, who was formerly the president of the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM), added that the Asian squash has been in a healthy state. “I think the squash family under the Asian Squash Federation is tight and strong. I mean, all the countries generally work together very well. For whatever reason, we seem to have less politics in the Asian Squash Federation. At that level, we seem to be working and supporting each other very well. There are a lot of events, even the big professional events being run in Asia. Take for instance the Asian Games. As far back as I can think, squash had always been there in the event. All these show that the Asian Squash has been doing well."

He commended India for having the expertise to run an international event, something he reckoned not all countries have. 

“India is one of the strong squash countries politically. I mean, N Ramachandran was a former president of the World Squash Federation. And, there are top (Indian) players at the World level. India definitely is a big contributor to squash at the World level. I'm very happy to see that the country is willing to host a tournament. Because you need to raise money, you need to organise the event, and you need to have expertise. Not every country has the expertise to run an international event.”

He said the other Asian countries may follow Malaysia in growing the sport by taking it to the schools. “In Malaysia, we are starting to build squash courts in schools. The government provides the budget. This, for us, is an important way to grow the sport. Otherwise, it's restricted to professional high-profile clubs and centres. Like, this one (the ISA here in Chennai). One thing with squash, unlike some other sports for which all that’s needed is a big field, is the need to build courts. And we’ve been doing it - like, say, three courts per school. And we make sure that district programmes are being run in those schools, not just a school programme. I think, even Hong Kong and Singapore are doing it. I think it’s become a trend, and I hope India will follow suit. 

“I think, last year we had built courts in around seven new schools. The schools are in a very small town. For Malaysian squash, it's very important. If you take Malaysian squash, historically, say in the ‘70s and ‘80s, most of the top players came from the cities, from professional high-profile clubs. Now, the top players are generally coming from the small towns. They are from everywhere because our development now goes into the grassroots.”