Fontaine: Squash Olympic bid 'no longer one-man show'
By Jonathan Rest at SportAccord in Bangkok
Squash’s campaign to finally join the Olympic Games sports programme is “no longer a one-man show,” according to Jacques Fontaine, president of the World Squash Federation.
The WSF, under previous president N Ramachandran, was unsuccessful with bids to join the programmes of the games of 2012, 2016 and 2020, but there is renewed optimism for a place at Paris 2024 with Frenchman Fontaine, elected in late 2016, at the helm.
Ramachandran was singled out by some for criticism after he was perceived to have attempted to run previous campaigns single-handedly.
Asked by Sportcal at a WSF media roundtable during SportAccord in Bangkok what is different about this latest campaign, Fontaine said: “It is no longer a one-man show, it is a several man show now. I have no problem letting Andrew [Shelley, WSF chief executive] and Pablo [Serna, vice-president] speak. Of course that is a change from the past.
“I don’t think one man can lead such a bid anymore. It is not possible. We have to have many different voices from different regions selling the benefits of squash.”
Squash was shortlisted for a place on the Tokyo 2020 programme but, along with wushu and bowling, lost out to surfing, karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and baseball-softball in the final reckoning.
At its session in Lima, Peru in September, the International Olympic Committee membership backed an executive board proposal that the 28 sports on the programme for Rio 2016 will be replicated at Paris 2024, meaning a third successive games for golf and rugby sevens.
The Paris 2024 organising committee is now permitted to begin discussions about which additional sports it would like to add to the programme, and present these to the IOC executive board, but there is neither a defined timeline nor process of selection.
The WSF will be hoping for a more sympathetic hearing from Paris 2024, particularly as Fontaine is a board member of the CNOSF, the French national Olympic committee.
In addition, squash would represent a strong medal chance for France in 2024. Gregory Gaultier is ranked three in the men’s world rankings, Camille Serme is sixth in the women’s standings and France won the European Championships in both 2015 and 2017.
With his close ties to Paris 2024 through the CNOSF, Fontaine admitted it would be “more than disappointing” not to be on a shortlist.
The WSF is also championing the memorandum of understanding it signed last year with the Professional Squash Association, which oversees the men's and women's tours, aimed at allowing the two bodies “to work in unison towards achieving a joint vision for the future of squash on a global scale.”
That agreement would guarantee the presence of the world’s top players at the Olympics, something that cannot be said as yet for baseball at Tokyo 2020 with no deal in place with Major League Baseball.
Fontaine said the WSF has identified as many as 15 possible sites, indoor and outdoor, to stage the squash competition at Paris 2024, adding: “We are flexible. We can put our glass court wherever we want so long as the ground is flat. The best place is obviously one that will be less expensive but will leave a legacy. We do not close off any option at the moment.”