May 20, 2024

Cricket is an Olympic sport again. Flag football gets in for the first time.

Five sports were finally added to the 2028 Los Angeles Games by the International Olympic Committee on Monday with baseball-softball, lacrosse and squash also confirmed for the program.

The slate of sports cleared a final hurdle from the Olympic body’s full membership at a meeting in Mumbai, India, after being proposed by Los Angeles officials one week ago and recommended by the IOC executive board on Friday.

All five were voted in as a single package with two “no” votes from about 90 IOC members in the room.

“We want L.A. 2028 to have the same springboard effect for our five sports,” Los Angeles organizing committee chairman Casey Wasserman told IOC members. “In L.A. we are dreamers and doers”

The decision to elevate cricket to Olympic status for the first time since 1900 was made in one of the hotpots of the sport where the IOC is meeting while India hosts the sport’s World Cup.

Adding cricket to the Olympic program is expected to raise the value of India’s broadcasting rights for the IOC by more than $100 million. The Olympic tournaments for men and women should each have six teams playing the shortened and dynamic Twenty20 format.

“The innings has just begun and we can’t wait to see where this incredible journey leads,” International Cricket Council chairman Greg Barclay said.

Flag football and baseball-softball could put NFL and MLB players on the Olympic stage in five years’ time.

Football in its full-contact form was a demonstration sport at the 1932 Olympics when Los Angeles first hosted the Summer Games.

“The NFL is committed to working together to strengthen flag football’s place in the Olympic movement long term,” the league’s commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

Lacrosse was hailed as the first game played on the American continent by its native people. The sport has been played twice at the Olympics, though not since 1908. In L.A., lacrosse will be played in a six-a-side format.

Squash will make its debut after several previous applications to get Olympic status failed.

There was no space for breakdance, which will not return after making its Olympic debut in Paris next year.

The importance of team sports in American culture and building stronger bonds to professional leagues and tours was stressed to IOC members before they voted.

Two members from Africa, Tidjane Thiam of Ivory Coast and William Blick of Uganda, expressed concern about how the fact that the sports added Monday are not played much on the continent.

They were told by L.A. sports director Niccolò Campriani that flag football is “the future and the tip of the spear for American football’s international growth.”

On the issue of immigration to the U.S., Los Angeles officials were asked to give assurances that athletes of all passports and nationalities would be allowed in for the Summer Games.

“That is our commitment,” Wasserman said, citing talks with state and federal authorities. “We are proud of our ability to make sure that our country is accessible to every athlete on earth.”

Opening the Los Angeles presentation, Wasserman directly addressed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war in language that pushed the limits of the IOC’s preferred stance of political neutrality.

Noting that previous generations of his own family fled to the U.S. from Ukraine “due to the pogroms that eliminated most of the Jewish population,” he said people there now “face an unfathomable path without us” during the war waged by Russia.

“There are no words than can fully capture the devastation and shock over the massacre in Israel on Oct. 7,” Wasserman added. “I unequivocally stand in solidarity with Israel, but let me be clear I also stand with the innocent civilians in Gaza who did not choose this war.”

He called on the Olympics to “show what is possible when we understand each other and our differences, and embrace those challenges of the times with respect and dignity. We look forward to welcoming, respecting and celebrating all athletes and people in the world when the games come to Los Angeles in 2028.”

Wasserman was chided by the first IOC member to respond, Syed Shahid Ali of Pakistan, who said “the political content tended to overshadow the sports part” of the L.A. presentation.

But Wasserman was supported by French IOC member Guy Drut, who competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed after Palestinian gunmen raided the athletes’ village. Drut lamented the “loss of our brothers from Israel.”

In a separate vote, IOC members confirmed that weightlifting and modern pentathlon will retain their Olympics places. Weightlifting had faced scrutiny because of doping issues, while modern pentathlon has replaced the horse jumping element with obstacle course racing.

Boxing has been assured of being on the program in Los Angeles but the sport is currently without a governing body recognized by the IOC.

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