By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - The time is right for cricket to return to the Olympics and a decision on applying for inclusion in 2024 will have to be made within months, the head of the sport's governing body said on Thursday.
The founder of the modern Olympics, Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, was enthusiastic about cricket, a sport dominated by Britain and former British colonies such as Australia and India, but it has only once featured in a Games - in Paris in 1900.
"We need to make a decision by, I guess, July of this year so that we can submit an application by September," Dave Richardson, chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), told reporters.
"And of course it’s not what cricket wants, its whether the IOC wants us."
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will choose between 2024 bid cities Paris and Los Angeles at a meeting in Lima in September, with new sports also under consideration. Baseball and softball are set to return in Tokyo in 2020.
Richardson said it did not matter which city won the bid.
"Both (cities) would ... probably be opportunistic for us, especially the U.S. option, but also in Europe," he said at the SportsPro Live conference at Wembley Stadium.
"You’d have to spend a little bit more money on cricket pitches in France than in the U.S. but it's not impossible."
"I think the majority of the members, and certainly myself, think the time is right," Richardson added. "I think we've come to the conclusion that the overall benefit to the game of helping to globalise it and grow will outweigh any negatives."
Richardson said any approach would be for cricket's shortest Twenty20 format.
The IOC had already made clear that there were limitations on athlete numbers, which would mean a competition of six to eight national sides at elite level.
There have been concerns that Olympic inclusion could damage the sport's own events, while clearing the calendar at a busy time of the cricket year would be another headache.
The problems that golf suffered, with many top players not attending, could also count against cricket. Golf returned to the Games last year in Rio for the first time since 1904.
England and West Indies could not compete as such. Britain represents England and the other home nations at the Olympics, while Jamaica and other Caribbean nations compete individually. However, India would have a real medal chance.
"The benefit is not so much about which teams go to the Olympics," said Richardson. "It's more that once your sport is an Olympic sport, it provides access to government funding in countries where they need the money."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Gareth Jones)