The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) efforts to have cricket included as an Olympic sport does not augur well. It might seem strange now, but cricket was one of the disciplines in the 1900 Paris Games. The provisional Olympic programme prepared in 1896 listed cricket as one of the sports and
four teams — Belgium, England, France and Holland — were invited for the Olympiad. But Belgium and Holland backed out due to paucity of funds, leaving England and the hosts France in the fray.
The 1900 Olympic cricket final was played between Great Britain and France at the Exhibition Ground, Vincennes on August 19 and 20. The former were represented by the Devon County Wanderers Club and the latter by the French Athletic Club Union. The French team included mostly Englishmen living in France who played club cricket there.
Britain won the inaugural Olympic cricket title trouncing France by 158 runs. The final scores were — Great Britain 117, 145 for 5; France 78, 26. Surprisingly, the winner, Great Britain was awarded the silver while the runners up, France received the bronze medal. The event was retrospectively recognised as an Olympic contest by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1912, and the medals won by the teams were upgraded to gold for Great Britain and silver for France in the only Olympic cricket competition so far. It was the end of the road for cricket in the Olympics.
Cricket received a boost in its bid to reenter the Olympic family when IOC accorded recognition to the ICC in 2007. But cricket’s return to the Olympics faces problems like television coverage rights, revenue sharing and the packed international cricket calendar. One also has to consider that women’s cricket has not made much impact and is not played in too many countries. Not including it in the Games will violate the basic doctrine of ‘gender parity’ as advocated by the IOC. Even the attitude of the IOC does not appear to be very positive. An obvious drawback is that no major Test cricket-playing nation is going to host the Olympic Games in near future. Second, the exorbitant cost involved in building stadia and providing infrastructure will be meaningless for a non cricket-playing country. At the same time, the IOC has its hands full with 27 disciplines and with baseball, golf and karate waiting in the wings, cricket is unlikely to be favourably considered. If cricket could not gain entry when the Games were being hosted in the land of its birth, then the future seems very bleak.
Ravi Chaturvedi is a Delhi-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal