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Skateboarding and surfing at Tokyo Olympics – but not squash?

It is a setback for the Olympics' aim to be a more inclusive convergence of sports events

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Photograph: Wikipedia

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The Tokyo Olympics has sparked much controversy since its postponement a year ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many Japanese were not in favour of the games being held as the infection rates continue to be of concern.

Still, the games officially began on 23 July and will end on 8 August 2021. For the current Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has added baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing to the sports programme.

Once again, the IOC has shown its partiality towards developed countries. It looks as if the voices of developing countries are ignored when new sports events are included.

IOC president Thomas Bach said the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games. 

Will it? No, it is another setback for the Olympics to be a more inclusive meeting point of what is supposed to be the convergence of the sports fraternity from all over the world.

Only certain countries will benefit from the inclusion of these new sports events in the Tokyo Olympics. Their inclusion adds to the divide between affluent nations and developing countries, as only a handful of countries will dominate most of these new sports.

Obviously, Bach and the IOC are looking at the sports world with a myopic view. It is time for them to look at sports from a global perspective and not only at the sports in rich countries.

Squash was one of the eight sports recommended by the Tokyo organisers but failed to make it to the final list of five. Could the IOC give a justified reason for the exclusion of squash when, according to the World Squash Federation, the sport is played in more than 185 countries.

It makes a mockery of the Olympics when baseball, skateboarding and sports climbing are included and squash is denied a place in the Olympics.

Is it fair when a sport like beach volleyball is considered an Olympic sport, but a skilful sport like sepak takraw, which originates from Southeast Asia and is a Sea Games sport, is excluded? After all, Southeast Asia is a region which is home to more than 660 million people.

Badminton was only included in the Olympics at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Could the IOC provide a rational explanation why badminton was excluded from the Olympics for so long, given that the first Thomas Cup world badminton team championship was held in 1948?

There are two Olympics held every four years – the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. Not all countries can take part in the Winter Olympics as only countries experiencing winter can do well in these sports events.

Should not the Winter Olympics then be downgraded and referred to simply as the Winter Games, as only a limited number countries can take part? Perhaps the IOC could explain why the term Winter Olympics is used instead of Winter Games? Is it because the Winter Olympics is dominated by well-heeled countries?

If the Olympics is unable to show the spirit of fairness and impartiality, then it draws parallels to politics when certain parties display their clout over the rest. Surely, we do not want this to happen, do we?

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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