Squash Makes a Worldwise Racket for Olympic Bid
Squash 2016 Day produced a resounding rallying cry all over the globe to support Squash’s bid for inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games.
In a worldwide festival of Squash, the day began with rock star Phil Buscke of The Datsuns performing a bungee jump live on TV from Auckland Harbour Bridge in New Zealand and continued with an amazing array of events as Squash 2016 Day moved through the various time-zones.
Leading professionals lent their support to the bid by joining in hundreds of Olympic-themed events, all taking place on the same day, Saturday 23 May.
The biggest event of the day was held in the USA at the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York, where squash legends Jonathon Power, David Palmer and John White took part in a 100-a-side Battle of the Border fixture.
The trio - all former world number ones, from Canada, Australia and Scotland, respectively - were joined by US number ones Julian Illingworth and Natalie Grainger, plus fellow pros from around the world including Colombian Bernardo Samper; Brazilian Rafael Alarcon; Australians Raj Nanda, Ryan Cuskelly, Mark Price, Kasey Brown, Lisa Camilleri and Narelle Krizek; Scotsman Stuart Crawford; and English players Phil Barker, Suzie Pierrepont, Chris Walker, John Russell and Mike Ferreira.
World No2 Grainger, a World Squash Federation 2016 Ambassador, said: “It was fantastic to see so many leading players supporting the event and more than 500 people came through the club’s doors on the day. The event raised money for the bid, showcased squash in the most positive way and helped to raise the profile of the sport.”
From the professionals of North America, through Europe and Asia to the townships of Soweto in South Africa, thousands of children were entertained to free coaching lessons and a vivid introduction to squash on a very special day for the sport which boasts 20 million players across all five continents.
In Hong Kong the 9th World Squash Coaching & Development Conference kicked off with speakers and delegates welcoming the Hon. Timothy Fok, IOC Member and President of the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, who delivered a most encouraging speech to all the participants of the conference in support of World Squash Day.
Delegates included WSF Vice-President Gerard DeCourcy and Hong Kong Squash Chairman David Mui - as well leading figures from the sport including legendary Australians Geoff Hunt, the eight-time British Open champion, and record five times World Open champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald.
Rio, Chicago and Tokyo - three of the cities bidding to host the 2016 Olympics - held special events throughout the day. As well as open days at every squash club, enthusiasts took to the streets in numbers to be photographed waving their Squash For 2016 banners at prime locations in each city.
The ‘Squash For 2016’ cry rang out in all 14 States of Malaysia where more than 53 squash venues at squash centres, clubs, colleges, universities and schools - even Armed Forces centres and Police Squash Clubs - joined in this major effort.
The national level programme started at the Royal Lake Club, where Squash first took root in Malaysia - and where dignitaries assembled that morning included WSF Patron and IOC Member HRH Prince Tunku Imran; Dato’ A. Sani Karim, President of the Asian Squash Federation and Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia; Dato’ Mohd Shukri Hussin, CEO of CIMB Foundation, SRAM’s Sports Partner; and two Vice-Presidents and the Secretary General of the Olympic Council of Malaysia.
A 16-vehicle motorcade, supported by four police outriders, made its way to seven iconic buildings in Kuala Lumpur (including the Parliament House, National Museum, Sultan Samad Building, City Hall, Royal Selangor Club, KL Tower and Petronas Twin Towers) where group photographs were taken.
The day rounded off in sensational style with a press conference at which CIMB Investment Bank announced a 4 Million Malaysian Ringgit sponsorship deal with SRAM to extend the current agreement by a further two years.
“Never in the history of squash in Malaysia had we witnessed the entire squash fraternity nationwide coming together to support a worthy cause,” commented K. Sivanesen, Hon. Secretary of SRA Malaysia. “All through the length and breadth of the country, Squash For 2016 Day was a day of squash festivities, fun and joy.”
The Japan Squash Association hosted a press conference in Tokyo attended by more than 20 members of the National media.
Organiser Miyuki Adachi said: “The coverage afterwards in various newspapers described the launch of the JSA’s efforts to help with the bid to have Squash included in the 2016 Olympics.
“As well as the conference, a squash clinic gave the journalists the opportunity to try out the game on court with some of the top players in Japan. All in all, a very successful and enjoyable day.”
Other open-air events took place in India (with photographs outside the Taj Mahal and the Gateway to India), South Africa (Table Mountain) and London, where enterprising student James Poole showed his passion for Squash by hiring a London bus to tour the city and stop off for photographs at the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace.
Leading the party on the iconic red London double-decker bus were three of the sport’s up-and-coming stars - Joe Lee, the British U19 champion, Charles Sharpes, the British U17 champion, and Charlie Lee, the England U10 number one - all of whom could be in their prime by 2016.
“I was delighted to have been involved in World Squash Day and the campaign to get Squash its rightful place in the Olympic Games,” said Joe Lee. “The sport deserves the global recognition and extra benefits that would come from Olympic inclusion - and it would be a huge honour for me to, one day, compete for my country in the world’s greatest sporting event.”
Younger brother Charlie added: “I am happy to be a part of helping squash get in the Olympics. It’s a great game and deserves to be included. I would love to compete in The Olympic Games and winning a medal would be amazing!”
In Cape Town, South Africa, Villager Squash Club hosted a “Last Man Standing” tournament. It turned out that the tournament should have been titled “Last Person Standing” since a woman, Siyoli Lusaseni, was crowned the Champion, after five hours of squash and 24 games with different squash enthusiasts!
Fittingly, Siyoli is an Olympic Ambassador for the World Squash Federation. She said: “It was a brilliant day for the game of Squash and a wonderful picture was taken of a group of squash enthusiasts at the Cape Town V and A Waterfront with the backdrop of Table Mountain.”
Another huge event in terms of participation was in Mumbai, where Indian ace Ritwik Bhattacharya was the star turn in a programme of State League fixtures with 128 players from Maharashtra between the ages of eight and 65.
Illustrating Squash’s cultural diversity, Iran and Nepal held massive press conferences, arranged national TV coverage and invited prominent IOC guests.
In Tehran, more than 600 guests of the Iran Squash Federation visited the historical Sadabad palace with special guests including Mr. Ali Abadi, Head of the country’s Physical Education Organisation and President of International Olympic Committee of Iran, and Dr M. SH. Malek Zadeh, President of Iran Squash Federation.
Women’s world No1 Nicol David, also a WSF Olympic Ambassador, hosted an open day at her training base in Amsterdam, while back home in Penang, Malaysia, she raised $10,000 towards the Olympic Bid by auctioning off her collection of clothing and rackets which she had worn and used to win major tournaments during her illustrious career.
Without doubt the most exhausted supporters of the event were at the Leñadura Country Club at the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas, and at Thurles Squash Club, County Tipperary, Ireland, where club players held 24-hour squash marathons.
Mexico’s world No16 Samantha Teran, another Olympic Ambassador, headed the celebrations in her homeland which featured activities at many of Mexico’s most important clubs, and concluding with a gathering at the Angel of Independence in the centre of the capital.
A special tournament to celebrate Squash 2016 Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, attracted not only hosts of squash enthusiasts to the Clube Paineiras do Morumby, but also the famous Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury.
At the end of an exhausting, but hugely successful weekend, World Squash Day founder Alan Thatcher said: “The event was massively supported by national federations, and some extraordinary individuals came to the fore to organise amazing events in so many different countries.
“The energy and commitment from so many sources was almost overwhelming, and clearly illustrated the passion we all have to see Squash gain its rightful place in the Olympic Games.”
Visit www.worldsquashday.com to view all the above images - and much more
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