Almanac Olympics: Brisbane best bet to go into bat

 

 

 

Becoming a new Olympic sport – and avoiding becoming a redundant one – has almost become a new Olympic sport in itself, if that makes sense.

 

There’s always a queue to get in, or back in, and the success and popularity of the new attractions in Tokyo – BMX freestyle, skateboarding, surfing and climbing – has, unsurprisingly, ignited a new gold rush, so to speak.

 

That’s a good thing because the Games need to keep reinventing themselves to keep pace with what each new generation finds entertaining, relevant and useful, without losing sight of the original concept of higher, faster, stronger – which now has an extra word added to it: together.

 

The flame in the Japanese capital had barely been extinguished before the International Cricket Council put its hand up for inclusion, not in Paris next time around because that program is already pretty much finalised, but in Los Angeles in 2028.

 

Netball has entered the race, too, looking even further ahead to Brisbane in 2032.

 

Breakdancing has already been accepted for Paris, as have the Tokyo newcomers, while baseball and softball and karate have been axed – and weightlifting might yet meet the same fate.

 

An original participant when the modern Games began in Athens in 1896 and a constant ever since, weightlifting finds itself under extreme pressure to survive because of its long-standing doping issues which it has cynically never seriously tried to resolve.

 

It will have only itself to blame if – almost certainly when – the bullet hits home, and it is unlikely to be much missed, certainly not by Australia (with apologies to 1984 gold and silver medallists Dean Lukin and Robert Kabbas).

 

Cricket’s campaign is interesting, certainly from an Australian perspective.

 

It is aiming for men’s and women’s T20 tournaments to be contested by eight nations each.

 

Many more will strive to qualify, an interested audience of more – many more – than a billion would be guaranteed, the dual gender factor will be important, it’s appeal transcends generational boundaries and it would not add hugely to the overall numbers requiring logistical accommodation. So it should have a lot going for it.

 

It’s going to be a hard sell, though, given that while it is hugely popular in most of the sub-Continent – it is the No 1 sport in the massive market that India represents, ditto Pakistan and Bangladesh – it has little clout in mainland Europe, either American continent or almost anywhere north of South Africa.

 

Retired Australian star Adam Gilchrist, now a highly astute media commentator with a broad view beyond his own backyard, was probably on the money when said during the week that cricket needs the Olympics more than the Olympics needs cricket. Why so? Because, I think he was saying, the game needs to remain competitive in the global marketplace and visible on the biggest stages.

 

Even the biggest sport in the world by far, soccer, values its membership of the five-ring family. Equally, the IOC would never dream of losing the round ball, even though it is not played at full strength.

 

While it is true that cricket has a history as an Olympic sport, they wouldn’t want to be relying on that for any advantage. The connection couldn’t be any flimsier.

 

It was played once, and once only, in Paris in 1924, with only one match taking place and virtually only English club-standard players involved.

 

Great Britain was represented by the Devon and Somerset Wanderers Cricket Club and France by a team made up of players from the British embassy. GBR scored 117 and 5/145 to FRA’s 76 and 26, which remained the lowest score made by any team in an international match of two innings until equalled by New Zealand in a Test against England in 1955.

 

The contest then transferred to the media. According to historian David Wallenchinsky’s The Complete Book of the Olympics, a contemporary French magazine commented: “Cricket is a sport which appears monotonous and without colour to the uninitiated.” A British report retorted: “We found the French temperament is too excitable to enjoy the game and no Frenchman can be persuaded to play more than once.”

 

Still, that was a tad more civilised than rugby’s fourth and final Olympic appearance at the same Games, at least until the sevens version made a comeback in Rio in 2016.

 

Like cricket, it’s Olympic experience was limited, to say the least. In Paris in 2000 three teams played a total of two matches, in London eight years later a combined Australian and New Zealand team thrashed Great Britain (actually the Cornwall county team) in the only match, and in Antwerp another 12 years later, USA defeated France in the only match.

 

In 1924 there were again only three teams and three matches, meaning that in four Olympics only six nations – never more than three at a time – played a total of seven matches, with Romania awarded the only bronze medal despite losing its only two games.

 

According to Wikipedia’s account of the Paris gold medal match between USA and France, 30,000 spectators booed and hissed the Americans throughout, throwing bottles and rocks onto the field, and wild brawls broke out in the grandstands. Reserve player Gideon Nelson was knocked unconscious when hit in the face with a walking stick.

 

The Americans won 17-3 but at the final whistle fans invaded the pitch forcing police and French players and officials to protect the Americans. At the medal ceremony The Star Spangled Banner  was drowned out by the booing and police had to escort the winners back to their dressing room.

 

With the image problem that created, as well as the difficulty in attracting enough teams, rugby was on the nose, and when one its staunchest supporters – Baron Pierre De Coubertin, the head of the Olympic movement since its re-invention in 1896 – stepped down from his lofty post the following year, it was banished.

 

The moral of the story? There isn’t one – it’s just an opportunity to wish both cricket and netball the best of luck with their ambitions, because they’re going to need it, I fear. Brisbane going into bat for them both is by far their best bet.

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE

 

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Comments

  1. Luke Reynolds says

    While the IOC would benefit greatly from the increased interest and exposure on the sub-continent, cricket has so much to gain from this, especially increased funding to developing nations.

    As a cricket lover I am all for it, would like to see the ICC make the Olympics (and Commonwealth Games?) the pinnacle of Twenty20 cricket and even scrap the Twenty20 World Cups. International Twenty20 could be all about the major titles at the two Games every two years and the qualification leading up to them, the rest of that format concentrated on the franchise leagues.

  2. G’day Luke, still on cricket but digressing from the original subject matter, where goes cricket in Afghanistan?

    They have played six tests; three wins, three losses. In the restricted form of the game their record is fine, especially in the T20 format where they have more wins than losses. In the T20’s they apparently hold the record for the most consecutive wins: eleven. They have played in the 50 overs World Cup, debuting against Bangladesh in Canberra, back in 2015.

    When the Taliban last held power in Afghanistan cricket was the only sport they allowed. Will this be the same now?

    Thoughts?

    Glen!

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Really disturbing to see what is happening in Afghanistan Glen. Short term I think their cricket team will be ok, they’ve always played away and have several players earning decent money on the Twenty20 circuit. But long term who knows how this will affect the growth of cricket there. And absolutely no chance for the women’s game under the Taliban. Will we ever see a Test match in Kabul in our lifetime?

  4. Ta Luke. Any womens’ active participation in sport under the Taliban is not on the cards.

    However It’s worth acknowledging during the last time the Taliban were in power the sole sport they allowed was cricket. Men only of course.

    Correct me if I’m wrong Australia is meant to play a test against Afghanistan in Hobart later this year. I won’t hold my breath, though stranger things have happened.

    Luke I’m unsure about cricket in the Olympics. The one match held was England V France, the French team full of expatriate English. Twelve a side it was not deemed a first class match.

    Cricket in the Commonwealth Games make sense. It was held once, back in 1998, when South Africa beat us in the final. This was their first trophy on returning to cricket, still one of the very few they have won. Where/when are the next few Commonwealth Games being held?

    Glen!

    Glen!

  5. Glen, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year will feature a T20 cricket tournament for women. No men..

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