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Cricket's inclusion in LA 2028 Olympics: A game-changer for the sport and business

The article discusses cricket's inclusion in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, its potential impact on the sport, and the challenges it faced to reach this point.

Cricket inclusion in LA 2028 Olympics: A game-changer for the sport and business snt
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First Published Oct 16, 2023, 2:51 PM IST

For an extended period, cricket was perceived as a sport with a substantial global fan base, largely due to its impressive 2.5 billion followers and the continuously rising TV revenue. However, this fan base was primarily concentrated in the Commonwealth countries, with India accounting for about 70 percent of those numbers. Now, the dynamics of cricket's global outreach could undergo a significant transformation as T20 cricket prepares to return to the Olympic Games during the 2028 edition set in Los Angeles. This development has the potential to yield mutual benefits both in the realm of sports and commercial interests.

From a sporting perspective, the Olympics offer an unparalleled platform for cricket, arguably even larger in scope than the World Cup. Standing on the Olympic podium with a medal around one's neck is an exclusive and prestigious moment for any athlete, a tradition dating back to the sport's inclusion in the Olympics in 1896.

"It is an excellent piece of news for cricket to be part of the Olympics. It will certainly add to the global image of cricket," Keith Joseph, president of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC), who strongly supported the ICC's efforts to include cricket in the LA Olympics, told PTI.

"T20 provides an excellent platform in terms of duration and connection with younger audiences. The fact that the USA will be co-hosting the T20 World Cup in 2024 will also serve as a very good precursor to cricket's Olympic participation," he added.

However, it would be naïve to anticipate that cricket will suddenly attain the universal appeal enjoyed by football merely by virtue of its inclusion in the Olympics. The numbers tell a significant tale: the ICC's T20 rankings encompass 87 nations in the men's section and 66 in the women's category. In contrast, FIFA's ranking list incorporates 207 men's teams and 186 women's teams, underscoring the considerable disparity in global outreach between the two sports.

This is not to dismiss the fact that the T20 format has contributed to cricket's expansion into regions that were previously uncharted territory, such as Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

"Yes, it is a good first step to take cricket to a global audience. The USA is a significant market with a strong presence of the subcontinent crowd. But for now, it has only been included in Los Angeles, and hopefully, it will also feature in Brisbane (in 2032). It is crucial because Australia is a traditional cricketing nation, and being able to play there will be a significant boost for the sport. It may even pave the way for cricket becoming a permanent Olympic sport," a veteran BCCI administrator told the news agency.

However, the return of cricket to the Olympic arena was not without its share of self-imposed obstacles. There were initial hesitations from officials and players alike regarding compliance with specific clauses, including the controversial whereabouts clause, which mandates random drug testing, in accordance with the stipulations of the IOC, IOA, WADA, and other relevant bodies.

England, the champion side when cricket was last featured in the Olympics in 1900, was another country that initially exhibited reluctance toward embracing this transformative development.

"Yes, there were some difficulties in reaching an understanding for some time over certain issues, such as the whereabouts clause. However, most importantly, the BCCI, ICC, and a few other boards have found common ground to take cricket to a global stage," the administrator added.

Beyond the sporting sphere, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) recognized the crowd-drawing potential of cricket, particularly in the United States, a nation with a substantial Asian diaspora.

A well-informed industry expert posited that cricket's ability to draw millions of viewers would significantly impact the acquisition of broadcasting rights for the LA Olympics.

"It is excellent news if you are a business person. America has a large section of Asian expats who are crazy about cricket and will fill the stadium and, of course, follow the game on TV or streaming apps. Since cricket is in LA, our estimate is that the selling price of broadcasting rights might see at least a 20-30 percent jump from the existing one, which is significant for a single edition," the expert explained to PTI.

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