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Squash hopes major TV deal can help land IOC votes

By Ossian Shine

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The powers behind world squash flew into Argentina on Thursday to add thrust to their bid to join the 2020 Olympic Games, hoping a major new broadcast deal will help land IOC votes.

The Professional Squash Association announced that the BBC had added squash to its programming and would cover next month's World Championship in Manchester, England - a move the PSA said was a further endorsement of the sport's appeal.

Squash is competing with wrestling and a joint baseball-softball bid for a spot on the Olympic program, and some 100 International Olympic Committee members will on Sunday vote for which sport to be admitted.

"This is the third consecutive bid by Squash to join the Olympic Games so our journey to get here has been a long one - 10 years in fact," World Squash Federation president N Ramachandran told reporters.

"We have learnt an enormous amount in that time. We have listened to the IOC, taken on board their advice and as a sport we have truly evolved and embraced innovation.

"There can be no doubt that Squash can offer something exciting and fresh to the Olympic experience."

LOW-COST ADDITION

Ramachandran highlighted that squash would be a simple and low-cost addition to the Games, with just 64 athletes, and said the sport would be happy to share a venue if required.

"We are a genuinely global sport played in 185 countries by many millions across the world. We are growing in regions such as South America, central Europe, China, and India as well as in the more traditional Squash areas including the United States, where we have over one million players," he said.

Ramachandran believes squash is more than ready after a recent journey of innovation Especially in the way it is broadcast and presented.

"State of the art all-glass courts, referee video review, lighting and music have radically enhanced the spectator experience," he said, adding that squash embraces gender parity with equal prize money for men and women in many key events.

"Squash is gladiatorial, physically demanding and mentally challenging," Ramachandran said.

"We are already played in every major multi-sport Games and the respected Forbes Magazine has described us as the 'world's healthiest sport', and of course we have a 100 percent doping-free record," he added.

"On Sunday we hope to demonstrate to the IOC that Squash is a sport that represents the future, not the past."

Squash, wrestling and the joint baseball and softball bid were short-listed by the IOC Executive Board and the vote to decide which sport will be admitted will take place on September 8.

Top-ranked woman Nicol David said the strength of women's squash was a major positive.

"Women's squash means a lot to the bid," she said. "I'm really proud of how far women's squash has come in terms of equality and equal prize money and I think people recognize that.

"We have marquee events where there is equal prize money and in my country, Malaysia, the Malaysian Open actually offers more prize money to women than to men because the women's sport is so popular."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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