5 Reasons Why Cricket Isn't—and Shouldn't Be—an Olympic Sport

Cricket Bat, Ball and wickets in Cricket Ground.
Nazar Abbas Photography / Getty Images

Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, wanted cricket in the first modern Olympiad in 1896. The sport did make a fleeting appearance at the 1900 Games in Paris, where an amateur team from Britain comfortably defeated a rabble of mostly British ex-pats representing France. There was virtually no fanfare for either the victors or the event itself, and like ballooning and croquet, cricket was making its first and last Olympic appearance.

The world is a very different place now than it was in 1900, and cricket has also changed dramatically. Some argue that modern cricket would benefit from a restoration to the Olympic ranks, but that remains unlikely under the prevailing viewpoint in England, India, and at the International Cricket Council. ​Below are five reasons why cricket isn't—and should not become—an Olympic sport.

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Slow Pacing

The Olympic flag at London 2012
www.flickr.com user aguichard

You will never see a cricket World Cup, let alone a four- or five-day Olympic tournament. Even Twenty20 cricket, currently the shortest type of cricket and the likely format for an Olympic competition, takes at least three-and-a-half hours for a single match. If the tournament followed the same format as Olympic football (soccer), with 16 teams in four groups, that would make for over 100 hours of cricket, far too long for the Games, which feature around 300 events, all of which would be cricket's rivals for viewer attention.

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The Bottom Line

The possibility of a spike in TV viewership, which could, in turn, lead to global growth in cricket, is one of the central arguments in favor of getting cricket into the Olympics. Unfortunately, simple viewing figures aren't enough: They need to translate into a direct financial benefit. And it's unclear that the Olympics could provide that for cricket.

If the tournament were Twenty20, that could mean that the biennial World Twenty20 tournament—one of cricket's biggest cash cows—would have to switch to a four-year cycle, potentially taking millions of dollars out of the game. What's more, the Olympics might generate a generous income from television rights, but that money would go to the International Olympic Committee rather than the ICC. As a part of the Olympics package, cricket would receive a dividend, but estimates suggest that would be worth less than a World T20 tournament to the ICC's bottom line.

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Lack of Global Interest

The Olympic Games is about representation as much as anything—about bringing all parts of the world together under the banner of sports. Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world, with an estimated one billion-plus people counted as fans, but that doesn't make it a global game. Top-level international cricket is played by only a handful of nations, and many residents in ICC associate and affiliate nations would have only a passing interest at most.

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Logistics and Cost

Cricket demands a high level of expertise in administration and preparation of the cricket field—called "the pitch"—which would be difficult and potentially very expensive for a non-cricket-playing host. The organizing committee for the Tokyo Games in 2020, for example, could easily see cricket as more trouble than it's worth, especially if fans in only a few countries are interested in watching it.

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Doesn't Fit the Olympic Motto

The Olympic motto is "Faster, Higher, Stronger," but cricket could more accurately be described as "Longer, Savvier, More Consistent." Cricket rarely bears witness to outstanding physical feats; the closest you get is a ball bowled over (similar to a pitcher hurling the ball to the catcher in baseball) at 100 mph. Rather, cricket is about outthinking the opposition and backing that up with consistent execution of technical skills. It isn't an easy fit for the Olympic ideal.