Cricket to make its long awaited return to Olympics for LA 2028 after IOC approval

Olympics inclusion could be revolutionary for the sport in Associate nations helping raise cricket's profile and unlocking government funding

Olympics Logo (Photo: ICC)

In news sure to delight Associate cricket fans as well as advocates for the sport’s global growth, cricket is all set for inclusion in the LA 2028 Olympics Games after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accepted the recommendation to include T20 cricket, for both men and women’s events. The Committee will be meeting again this weekend in Mumbai to participate in a voting session and are expected to officially rubber stamp cricket’s entry.

This marks the long awaited return of the sport to the Olympics stage for the first time since its debut in Paris 1900, exactly 123 years ago. The aforementioned event was a low key affair with just two nations, Great Britain and France, participating in the cricket event after Belgium and Netherlands withdrew. There was only an one-off match played with Britain dominating the French team (made up largely of British expatriates residing in Paris) and winning the two day Test by 158 runs. The match received very little media coverage at that time and was retrospectively formally recognised as being an Olympic contest twelve years later.

This time around, the Olympics cricket tournament is likely to be a much more high profile event with the IOC keen to tap into the massive subcontinent TV audiences.

Speaking to media, IOC President Thomas Bach highlighted the mutual benefits of cricket’s inclusion for both the sport and the Olympics. “The Olympic Games will give cricket a global stage and the opportunity to grow beyond the traditional cricket countries and regions. And for the Olympic movement, it’s an opportunity to engage with the fans’ and athletes’ community, to which so far we have very little or no access.”

It is not yet finalised as to how many teams will take part, but initial reports suggest a six team event for both men and women. A final call on the qualification system will be taken by 2025.

Benefits to Associates

Despite the low likelihood of an Associate team making the final event, Olympics inclusion will nevertheless unlock several benefits for emerging nations. In a 2020 interview with Emerging Cricket, Matt Featherstone of Cricket Brazil stated that their organisation could be in line to receive an annual subsidy of $500,000 USD from the Brazilian Olympic Committee once cricket becomes an official Olympic sport.

“The support that the national governing body gives to Olympic sports In Brazil is quite high. A lot of non-voting Associate members at the ICC receive between 15,000 & 50,000 USD a year, so an additional funding boost could be a massive game changer. And it’s not just the payment, there is a lot of other benefits too. We would be able to register our athletes to receive a government funding. They would be contracted by the government. And the resultant salary would be much higher than what we are able to afford”, he said.

Federazione Cricket Italiana President Fabio Marabini also has echoed similar sentiments previously, describing how Olympics inclusion will help in significantly raising the sport’s profile, both globally and in Italy itself. “To us, Olympics inclusion would mean that we have good visibility for cricket. It would mean more sponsors and higher amounts for TV rights. We would receive an additional 1.5 to 2.5 million Euros from the government. If cricket reaches a greater level of professionalism in Europe, it could be priceless in terms of money, even for the Full Members and the ICC.”

As off October 2023, Associate nations make up the vast majority of the International Cricket Council’s 108 members (96 Associates and 12 Full Members). All of the 96 members stand to benefit from Olympics inclusion and this could even be a monumental step towards professionalism for some of the higher ranked Associate nations. Cricket Australia has also targeted the sport’s inclusion at the 2032 Olympics, set to be hosted by Brisbane. However, any inclusion in future editions is contingent upon further reviews to be conducted by IOC at a later date.

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