Squash Steps Up Bid For Olympic Recognition
The World Squash Federation (WSF) has been lobbying hard for a place at the Olympic table for more than 20 years and this year the sport's leaders hope their hard work will finally pay off.
Squash was recently nominated by the IOC as one of five sports which would be "studied further" with a view to inclusion in the Olympic Games programme for 2012.
The WSF will be inviting guests from the IOC, and London's 2012 Olympic bid team, to see top-class squash at first hand at the ISS Canary Wharf Classic, which takes place this week in London's Docklands.
The event, which is being staged a gentle lob away from Lord Coe's 2012 London Bid offices at Canary Wharf, features eight of the world's leading 11 players in action on a brand new all-glass court.
Use of portable courts has enabled squash to break out of its club-based environment to stage major events such as this in spectacular locations.
As well as the glass and steel exhibition area at the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf, other tournaments are staged at Boston Symphony Hall, New York's Grand Central Terminal, and across London at the Broadgate Centre in the city.
Other past venues have included the Royal Albert Hall and an open-air amphitheatre at the foot of the Great Pyramids in Giza, Egypt.
Ironically, rain showers forced Saturday's final of the Kuwait Open to be moved from an open-air harbour-side location to a club court to enable to the matches to be completed.
Former world champion Peter Nicol, who lost in the Kuwait final to Australia's David Palmer, is naturally anxious for squash to join the Olympic movement.
Squash is a successful part of the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, African Games and Pan-American Games - and Nicol, a co-promoter of the ISS Canary Wharf Classic, says: "Squash fully deserves to be in the Olympics.
"To win any kind of Olympic medal would be the ultimate pinnacle of a squash player's career."
Nicol, who won a gold medal in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia and silver in Manchester in 2002, took on his great rival, Canada's Jonathon Power, in the opening match at Canary Wharf on Monday. Nicol faced Power in both of those Commonwealth finals - and leads their career head-to-head series 22-19, despite losing to the Canadian in the event opener.
Neither is likely to be in action should squash gain a place in the 2012 Olympic Games, but one man hoping to be at the peak of his career then is 21-year-old rising star James Willstrop.
The world No9 from Pontefract in Yorkshire is the reigning Canary Wharf champion and began the defence of his title against Australian Anthony Ricketts, who recently achieved his first major career success by winning New York's Tournament of Champions final at Grand Central Station.
Nicol, Power, Ricketts and Willstrop all feature in the Canada Place qualifying pool at Canary Wharf.
The Jubilee Mall group features England No1 Lee Beachill, Scotland's big-hitter John White, who recorded 172mph at Canary Wharf last year, and former world champions Palmer and Amr Shabana of Egypt.
Issued on behalf of: WSF For further information:
Tel: (44) 1737-243333 or (mobile) (44) 7773-325130 Fax: (44) 870-706 5253
WSQ 2717 Email: HowHard@aol.com 15 March 2005