Cricket's return to the Olympic program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games drew an enthusiastic response from around the world.
Cricket, a bat-and-ball game that is hugely popular in south Asia, was one of five sports added to the LA Games by the International Olympic Committee on Monday. Flag football, baseball-softball, lacrosse and squash were also included.
“After a wait of more than a century, our beloved sport is back on the Olympic stage,” former India captain Sachin Tendulkar wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “This marks the dawn of a new era for cricket as it will be a golden opportunity to foster inclusivity and showcase new talent from emerging cricketing nations. A start of something truly special!”
Monday's decision was made at an IOC meeting in Mumbai, the Indian city that will host five matches at the ongoing Cricket World Cup.
Cricket was last played at the Olympics in 1900, but the game is played at other multi-sport events like the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
“Players will get the chance to compete for an Olympic gold medal and be part of the games, which will be so special,” said Mithali Raj, a former India women's cricket team captain. “It’s also a chance for more fans around the world to enjoy our fantastic sport.”
For the last two years, the International Cricket Council has been working extensively with the IOC for inclusion at the Los Angeles Games.
“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,” ICC chairman Greg Barclay said.
The ICC hoped the Olympics, which has an estimated audience of more than 3 billion, will provide an opportunity for cricket to “engage new audiences and further boost the sport’s reach across the world, opening the door to a new generation of cricket enthusiasts.”
Another Indian cricket great, Sunil Gavaskar, was also excited for the players to mingle with athletes from around the world.
“That is totally fantastic, isn’t it?” Gavaskar said while commentating during Australia's cricket match against Sri Lanka. “What an experience it’ll be for every team, and particularly the Indian team, to be able to see what the Olympic village is like, to be able to spend time with other athletes, other champions.”
In Australia, the governing body of the sport in the country praised the decision as a chance to expand further afield.
“This is a game-changer for our sport that is already among the fastest growing in the world,” Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley said. “The Olympic Games will undoubtedly increase the global reach of cricket, inspiring a whole new generation to love and play the game.”
Cricket at the Los Angeles Olympics will be a six-team event for both men and women and will be played in the Twenty20 format.
Los Angeles organizing committee sports director Niccolo Campriani said the format will be “appealing to the younger crowd.”
“We are thrilled to welcome the world’s second-most popular sport with an estimated 2.5 billion fans worldwide,” Campriani said. “Some of you might be wondering why in LA? Well, the commitment to grow cricket in the U.S. is real, and it’s already happening with the launch of the very first Major League Cricket season earlier this year, which exceeded all expectations. And the (men’s) T20 World Cup in 2024 coming to U.S. and West Indies.”
AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games