Dubai: The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday confirmed its intention to push for cricket's inclusion in the Olympic Games going forward, starting preparations for a bid on behalf of the sport with the primary target being its addition to the Los Angeles 2028 itinerary.
According to the apex body, a working group to lead the bid has been assembled by the ICC. ICC said thirty-million cricket fans live in the USA, making LA 2028 the ideal Games for cricket to make its return to the Olympic competition.
Cricket, till now, has made just one appearance in the Olympics, way back in 1900 in Paris when only two teams competed at the event - Great Britain and hosts France - meaning the sport's inclusion in 2028 would mark the end of a 128-year absence.
ICC Chair Greg Barclay said the addition of cricket to the Olympic Games would be beneficial to both the sport and the Games themselves.
"Firstly on behalf of everyone at the ICC, I would like to congratulate the IOC, Tokyo 2020, and the people of Japan for staging such an incredible Games in such difficult circumstances. It truly was fantastic to watch and captured the imagination of the world and we would love for cricket to be a part of future Games," Barclay said in a ICC release.
"Our sport is united behind this bid, and we see the Olympics as a part of cricket's long-term future. We have more than a billion fans globally and almost 90 percent of them want to see cricket at the Olympics.
"Clearly cricket has a strong and passionate fanbase, particularly in South Asia where 92% of our fans come from whilst there are also 30 million cricket fans in the USA. The opportunity for those fans to see their heroes competing for an Olympic medal is tantalising," he added.
"We believe cricket would be a great addition to the Olympic Games, but we know it won't be easy to secure our inclusion as there are so many other great sports out there wanting to do the same. But we feel now is the time to put our best foot forward and show what a great partnership cricket and the Olympics are," Barclay opined.
The sport will feature in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games next year, which shapes as a perfect showcase for what the sport can bring to the Olympics, as well as being a momentous occasion on its own.
The ICC Olympic Working Group will be chaired by England and Wales Cricket Board Chair Ian Watmore.
He will be joined by ICC Independent Director Indra Nooyi, Chair of Zimbabwe Cricket Tavengwa Mukuhlani, ICC Associate Member Director and Vice President of the Asian Cricket Council Mahinda Vallipuram and Chair of USA Cricket Parag Marathe.
Marathe believes the time is now for cricket to make its long-awaited return to the Olympics, confident the sport's inclusion at the showpiece event would accelerate the growth of the game in the USA.
"USA Cricket is thrilled to be able to support cricket's bid for inclusion in the Olympics, the timing of which aligns perfectly with our continuing plans to develop the sport in the USA," he said.
"With so many passionate cricket fans and players already in the USA, and a huge global audience and following for the sport around the world, we believe that cricket's inclusion will add great value to the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games and help us to achieve our own vision for establishing cricket as a mainstream sport in this country."