Updated 9/5 at 6:36 p.m.
In the sporting world, all eyes will be on Buenos Aires this weekend, where the International Olympic Committee is set to hold its 125th session.
The session’s marquee event will be Saturday’s selection of the 2020 Summer Games host city from a trio of contestants—Istanbul, Madrid, and Tokyo. But for squash players and fans, the big announcement will be on Sunday, when one of three sports—wrestling, squash, and baseball/softball—will be selected for addition to the Olympic program in 2020.
Members of Columbia’s squash teams, such as sophomore Reyna Pacheco of the women’s squad and junior Ramit Tandon of the men’s squad, are doing what they can to promote their sport.
Pacheco has played an active role in the bid and made room in her school schedule so that she could be a part of the delegation that presented to the IOC last December in Geneva.
“I had to take all my finals early. One of my professors actually didn’t want to let me go,” Pacheco said. “I had to go through the dean and all of that to be able to get it approved.”
Once in Switzerland, Pacheco was part of the team tasked with making squash stand out among a diverse field of entrants ranging from wushu to roller sports.
“It was fun, it was really fun,” Pacheco said. “It was nerve-wracking. It was like finals week all over again—rehearsing, and knowing that this mattered to so many people.”
In addition to supporting squash’s bid via social media, Tandon, a member of the Indian men’s national team and the Professional Squash Association, has also been active in promotional events at international tournaments. He said that squash has seemingly increased its popular appeal since its past unsuccessful bids, including one four years ago.
“They’ve tried to make it more entertaining,” Tandon said, noting that some events have dancers come on between matches. “They have replay systems now. They have video reviews, so it’s just more friendly for people to come and watch—watch the game and enjoy it.”
Tandon also points to increasingly high-profile venues where exhibition matches are held, such as Grand Central Station and the Pyramids of Giza, as evidence of the sport’s rising popularity and suggests the Olympics could be a chance for the sport to reach the next level.
“The venues are getting better because there’s more money in the sport,” Tandon said. “If we make the Olympics it will be even bigger, better.”
Squash has additional factors working in its favor that would make it an appealing choice for the IOC.
“A squash court can be put up,” Pacheco said. “It’s not that expensive. The committee doesn’t have to build something new to do squash. We could be put basically anywhere.”
Tandon pointed out another advantage squash has over its competition.
“I think squash stands a good chance because it’s a new sport,” Tandon said. “We have never been in the Olympics."
Even so, pundits believe wrestling remains the frontrunner.
“Honestly, I think that wrestling has an 80 percent chance of making it and we have, like, a five percent chance of making it,” Pacheco said.
“It will be us,” Tandon said in response to Pacheco’s appraisal.
Pacheco smiled and agreed.
“But it will be us.”
Correction: A previous version of this article included a quote that incorrectly identified wrestling as a male-only Olympic sport. Spectator regrets the error.