Cricket in the Olympics? (1996 edition)

Cricket has made just one appearance in Olympic competition, in the second games of the modern olympiad, held in Paris in 1900. While it was intended at first to include four nations, Great Britain plus those other great cricketing nations of France, Belgium and Holland, neither of the latter two could raise a team. Overseas countries such as Australia and the USA (who at that time was a strong cricketing nation) did not send teams. The cricket tournament was in fact just one game, played at the Velodrome de Vincennes on 19-20 August . There were no current first-class players in the Devon & Somerset County Wanderers XII who represented Great Britain, and France was represented by a composite team from two local (now
non-existent) clubs.

The match was played over two days. England scored 117 in its first innings, France made 78, England scored 145 for 5 declared, leaving France 185 to win. They were all out for 26. French
batsman W.Anderson top scored in the final innings with 8, and Devon’s Montague Toller took 7 for 10.

The record books show Gold Medal to Great Britain, Silver Medal to France, no Bronze Medal. In fact no medals were awarded, and the match did not have official olympic status till some time later. Cricket was never included in the Olympic games again.

The Paris games was even less well organised than the Atlanta Olympics, if that seems possible. (More information about the 1900 Olympics can be found at the superb Olympedia web site.)

The year 2000 will be the centennial of that first cricket match at the Olympics, and the games will be held in the cricketing stronghold of Sydney (or as J.A.Samaranch would say,
“Siddey”). It is also possible that the 2004 games will be held in either Manchester or Cape Town, both notable cricketing centres. Is it time for cricket to be reinstated to
olympic status, alongside softball, beach volleyball, synchronised swimming and the dressage?

Cricket has sufficient participating countries to qualify as an Olympic sport. It has been included in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia.

How would cricket have fared at Atlanta? There is, indeed, an Atlanta Cricket League including clubs from Georgia and nearby South Carolina. The grounds are typically smaller than normal especially in cities such as Atlanta where space is tight. The Atlanta league pitches are grassless clay surfaces over which a jute matt is laid and nailed on the sides. This is a typical surface used in south India, Sri Lanka and south east Asia. These are mainly suburban park grounds that are used for multi purposes, such as soccer or softball. There are no groundsmen, the players have to manage and care for the wickets themselves. Whether the Atlanta Olympic Committee would have been prepared to put the investment into turf wickets is totally hypothetical.

One should remember that the West Indies do not compete in Olympic competition as one body, so Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago would be required to field separate teams, as in the Red Stripe Cup, but the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands players would also have to compete under the flag of their separate sovereign states (eg. Antigua, Grenada, St Vincent)

What would possess more prestige for an Australian cricketer? The Ashes or a gold medal? How would this compare for a Sri Lankan to a World Cup victory?

(Thanks to Vasisht Venkatesh from the Clemson Cricket Club, South Carolina for the information on cricket in Atlanta.)

For about a month following the Atlanta Olympics, I conducted a poll on this site asking
whether people thought that cricket should be included in future Olympic Games. After some publicity on the soc.culture.indian newsgroup and in a number of Indian mailing lists, I was absolutely deluged with responses. Where I would normally receive half a dozen responses to a web page, this one generated over one thousand replies! The results up until the time I called off the poll appear below. This poll is now closed. Thanks to everyone for
your interest. I do not represent any olympic or cricketing body in conducting this poll, it merely came out of discussions that were taking place whilst the Atlanta Games were on.

It has been mooted for some time that one-day cricket will be a demonstration sport in Sydney 2000. Whether it appears at future games is a matter for conjecture at this stage – a lot will hinge on the city that is awarded the 2004 Games. Cricket will be an official sport at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.

(FOOTNOTE: I have to be honest here – if I were voting on this poll I would have voted NO. The outcome surprised even me.)

The poll results:

Yes No
Cricket in Sydney? 923 25
Style Votes
One-Day Internationals 811
Super 8’s 34
About 25 overs a side 24
Between 30-40 overs one-day 13
Five-day Tests 10
40-50 overs a side 7
Double wicket 5
Indoor cricket 4
all of Tests, ODI, Super 8’s 1
Minimum of 10 innings, each 6 overs 1
An unspecified shorter version of the game. 1
Six-a-side 1
Two overs per batsman 1
7 a side, 3 outs, max 3 overs/bowler 1
Gold Silver Bronze
India 487 118 88
Australia 163 253 193
Sri Lanka 65 185 180
Pakistan 56 100 115
South Africa 55 109 123
Zimbabwe 3 0 5
U.S.A 3 0 1
Great Britain 2 8 31
Netherlands 2 0 3
Canada 1 0 1
Russia 1 0 1
Barbados 0 4 5
Germany 0 2 0
New Zealand 0 1 2
Belgium 0 1 0
Puerto Rico 0 1 0
U.A.E 0 1 0
Zambia 0 1 0
Honduras 0 0 1
Japan 0 0 1
Kenya 0 0 1
* West Indies 9 45 69

* see above. The West Indies don’t qualify.

(This article was first published on 27 July 1996, during the Atlanta Olympics, and updated on 29 August 1996 with the results of an online poll I conducted. It has been slightly amended to replace some broken links. Updated text in italics.)

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