The ICC has recommended six-team T20 events for both men and women to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games organizing committee, as it continues its push for cricket to be included in the biggest global sports events.
Though there were reports that cricket had failed to make it to the 2028 LA Olympics, ESPNcricinfo understands that no decision has been taken yet and a final call will be taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) around October this year after the LA28 organizers finalise the list of new sports by March. These will then be ratified, at the IOC’s session in Mumbai, expected to take place around October this year.
If the proposal is accepted, it is likely that the six participating teams would be the top six in the ICC’s men’s and women’s T20 rankings on a cut-off date. The ICC has not yet finalized a tournament structure – it is still discussing options for this with the LA28 organizers.
The key reason behind the ICC recommending six-team events is the IOC’s drive to become more cost efficient, which it has laid out as part of its strategic plan titled “Olympic Agenda 2020+5”. The best way to cut down on costs, the IOC has determined, is avoiding bloated squad sizes across disciplines as well as the overall contingents. As a consequence, the total athletes’ quota at the 2024 Paris Games will be 10,500, down from 11,300 at the previous Olympics, held in 2021 in Tokyo.
As part of cost-saving “opportunities” under the 2020+5 strategic plan, which caters to several marquee events including LA28, the IOC has highlighted “evolving the event-based program with a key focus on simplifying the venue master plan, and reducing cost and complexity in each sport”.
IOC wants to streamline contingent sizes
Cricket has its own range of complexities in this regard, with squads traveling with teams of support staff, and requiring a certain number of pitches for games along with training pitches for teams to prepare on. It is understood that during the discussions, the guidance the ICC received from LA28 was that both the men’s and women’s events would need to be restricted to a single venue.
The ICC had already seen the advantage of such cost-saving measures at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last July-August, where women’s T20 cricket was one of the 19 disciplines. Originally, the ICC had recommended two venues for it, but the organizers limited it to one venue – Edgbaston – with 16 matches conducted across ten days with multiple double-headers.
LA28 has also told the ICC that the quality of the proposed event must not be compromised, and it would need to be contested by the very best. This, too, contributed towards the ICC working group’s idea to limit the proposed event to the top-six teams for both men and women.
The ICC has been in constant dialogue with both LA28 as well as the IOC. An ICC delegation had even traveled to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. In December, ICC chief executive Geoff Allardice met with LA28 officials in Los Angeles.
Jay Shah added to ICC’s Olympics working group
BCCI secretary Jay Shah has been added to the ICC’s Olympics working group, which is headed by Greg Barclay (ICC chairman) and also includes Indra Nooyi (independent director), and Paraag Marathe (former USA Cricket president).
The addition of Shah, who is the BCCI representative on the ICC board as well as chair of the finance and commercial affairs committee, is a strategic move. The IOC has earmarked India as a key market, keeping in mind the country’s ambition to host the Olympics in the near future. And the ICC believes Shah’s involvement could lend an important and potentially influential push in its negotiations with the IOC for cricket to be included at sport’s biggest global event.
It is learned that the working group has updated ICC members with a summary of the discussions it has had with LA28.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo