The prospect of cricket appearing at the Olympics for the first time in 124 years inched a step closer on Thursday when the International Cricket Council chief executive, Dave Richardson, confirmed that the majority of his members back applying to the International Olympic Committee for the sport to be included in the 2024 Games.
Cricket last appeared at the 1900 Paris Olympics when only two teams – Great Britain and France – were involved. However, Richardson is persuaded that the time is right for cricket to reappear, and suggested it is highly likely that the ICC will be submitting an application for the 2024 Olympics this year.
“We need to make a decision by July so we can make an application in time for September, when, as I understand it, the IOC will consider new sports for 2024,” he said. “I think the majority of the members – and certainly myself – think the time is right and we’ve come to the conclusion that the overall benefit to the game in terms of globalising and growing it outweigh any negatives, so I’m hoping.”
Speaking at the SportPro conference in London, Richardson said a Twenty20 tournament with between six and eight teams was the most likely format for the Olympics – and suggested that it would help expand the sport whether the 2024 Games are held in Los Angeles or Paris.
“T20 is the ideal format and we’d say even better than rugby sevens as it’s actually one of the mainstream formats of cricket,” he said. “Neither LA nor Paris would be a disaster for us, in fact both would be opportunistic, especially the US option.”
However, Richardson conceded that the IOC had warned the ICC that it had to promise that the best players were sent to the Games – which could raise problems with the England and Wales Cricket Board given that the Olympics are usually held at a time when Tests are played in England.
“They haven’t said a sport would have to go [to make way for us],” Richardson said, “but they said when taking any decision on new sport they’ve put an overall limit on the number of athletes, so as a team sport we would only fit six to eight teams. They’ve also told us we mustn’t send beach cricket or six-a-side teams, it must be a format played at international level and it must be our top players.
“From an ICC perspective, the fixture calendar is the most challenging part of it. In the northern hemisphere, the Olympics are held in the English summer, so that’s a problem for them if they’ve got an Ashes series on. So there will be issues and England in the past have said: ‘Are we sure we want to go down this route?’”
However, Richardson denied there would be any problems with a combined Great Britain team, or West Indies being split into their individual countries. “I don’t think it would be a problem,” he said.
“The countries that make up the West Indies haven’t raised that as an issue, similarly England. I don’t think they’d mind putting a few Scots or Irish in. So I don’t think that’s an issue and I’m not sure Barbados or Jamaica would qualify, although we’d make sure there is an all‑encompassing qualifying structure, as that’s one of the IOC’s requirements. So we’d start off with regional tournaments, with regional finals and so on.”