— Published 7 September 2023

Cricket shuffles the deck for Los Angeles 2028

The announcement took everyone by surprise. It also opened the door to speculation. The IOC issued a brief statement on Wednesday September 6, announcing that the schedule for the next meeting of its Executive Board had been modified.

Scheduled to take place online on Friday, September 8, from the Olympic House in Lausanne, the main purpose of the meeting remains the same: to draw up the agenda for the 141st IOC Session, to be held from October 15 to 17 in Mumbai, India. But in a major change, the discussion on the sports program for the Los Angeles 2028 Games has been struck from the list.

Due to ongoing discussions between the IOC and the Organizing Committee, the Olympic Program Commission has not yet had the opportunity to meet to prepare its final recommendation to the IOC Executive Board, explains the body’s press release. Consequently, the sports program for the LA28 Olympic Games will be discussed at a subsequent meeting of the IOC Executive Board, to be held at a date to be determined.”

Thomas Bach’s online press conference, which was due to close the executive committee meeting in the late afternoon, has also been postponed indefinitely.

On Friday September 8, the Executive Board was due to decide on the question of additional sports. It is also expected to take another look at the case of boxing, modern pentathlon and weightlifting, three historic events on the Olympic program that have been provisionally excluded from the Los Angeles 2028 program.

If the official version is to be believed, the change in the agenda is the result of a rushed timetable. The Olympic Program Commission would not have had time to meet. It would not have been possible to present Thomas Bach and his entourage with a precise report by the end of the week.

But the reality is undoubtedly different. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that the IOC discovered at the last minute, just two days before a decisive Executive Board meeting, that its Program Commission was behind schedule, especially for a subject – the sports program for the Los Angeles Games – that had been under discussion for over a year.

The announcement of the postponement of the agenda, and Thomas Bach’s recent statements, suggest this without any real ambiguity: the question of the program for the LA 2028 Games has still not been settled. It is still under discussion, dare we say negotiation, between the IOC and the Californian organizers.

One possible bone of contention is cricket. The discipline is on the short list of nine sports selected by Los Angeles 2028 for inclusion in the program, along with flag soccer, lacrosse, baseball/softball, karate, kickboxing, breaking, squash and motor racing.

On paper, cricket was not among the favourites. In the United States, the discipline remains non-existent. Americans prefer baseball. Adding it to the program for the Los Angeles 2028 Games won’t change a thing.

For the IOC, on the other hand, the return of cricket to the Olympic Games, 128 years after its only appearance at the 1900 Paris Games – in the form of a single match between France and Great Britain – could have a direct effect on its revenues. According to a source quoted by the Times of India, broadcasting rights for the LA 2028 Games in India could be multiplied by ten if cricket were to feature on the program. They would climb to $200 million.

Audiences would follow the same curve. A match between India – population: 1.4 billion – and Pakistan – 242 million – could reach historic heights. The IOC can easily imagine: cricket could be a mat de cocagne. Thomas Bach’s recent statements in an interview on India’s CNBC-TV18 set the tone.

After asserting that he was a “cricket fan“, the IOC President did not shy away from the question of the discipline’s possible inclusion in the Los Angeles 2028 Games: “Now it’s up to the Los Angeles organizing committee to make a proposal. But I think you can imagine, from my answers, what my position would be on such a request.”

Again according to the Times of India, citing sources close to the matter, the Los Angeles 2028 organizing committee is prepared to open the door to cricket, in exchange for the entry of another team sport, flag soccer. The Americans are also reportedly throwing their weight behind baseball/softball, which was selected for the Tokyo 2020 Games, but excluded from the Paris 2024 Games.

With cricket, flag soccer and even baseball/softball, the 10,500-athlete quota imposed on Games organizers, including additional sports, is likely to be shattered. Will Thomas Bach and the Executive Committee accept this? The answer could have been given on Friday September 8. It will have to wait.