In a historic move, cricket is set to make a triumphant return to the Olympic stage, as it gets included in the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. This exciting development follows a 123-year absence from the Summer Games. The IOC had good reasons for including cricket, one of the world's most popular sports.
A major factor behind this decision is the immense popularity of Virat Kohli, the captain of the Indian cricket team. Kohli boasts an astounding 340 million social media followers, making him the third-most followed athlete worldwide. This surpasses the combined following of well-known athletes like LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Tiger Woods.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), during its 141st session, approved the inclusion of several sports, and cricket, played in the T20 format, is among them. The proposal to add these five new sports to the 2028 Olympic program, presented by the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 (@LA28), gained the IOC's seal of approval. The four other sports that are added in the list along with T-20 format of cricket include Baseball/softball, flag football, lacrosse (sixes), and squash.
Cricket's entry into the Olympics is expected to bring a slew of benefits. The IOC believes Kohli's global appeal will attract new fans to the sport and boost its worldwide popularity, especially among the younger generation.
Niccolo Campriani, director of the LA Local Organizing Committee, emphasized that Kohli's global stardom made it easy to pitch cricket as one of the new sports for the 2028 Games. "This is a win-win-win situation for LA28, the IOC, and the cricket community, as cricket will now be showcased on a global stage, expanding beyond its traditional cricket-playing nations," Campriani stated.
The vast cricket fan base in India, the world's most populous country, and the backing of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for the International Cricket Council's Olympic candidacy played a significant role in securing cricket's place in the LA28 schedule. The BCCI's support for cricket's inclusion changed in 2021 after initial opposition, driven by concerns about its autonomy.
Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary, is optimistic about the future, saying, "The inclusion of cricket in the Olympics is set to open new horizons for the sport, offering unprecedented exposure in untapped global markets. Furthermore, we anticipate that this decision will bring substantial financial benefits and positively impact our sport's ecosystem. It will stimulate infrastructure development, intensify competition, encourage youth development, and create opportunities for officials, volunteers, and skilled professionals."
Nita Ambani, an IOC member, proud Indian, and passionate cricket enthusiast, celebrated the moment, exclaiming, "As an IOC member, a proud Indian, and an ardent cricket fan, I am delighted that IOC members have voted to include Cricket as an Olympic Sport in the LA Summer Olympics 2028!"