IOC insiders pour cold water on cricket's hopes of 2024 Olympic return

The sport has only featured in one Olympics so far, the 1900 Games in Paris, but the International Cricket Council (ICC) is understood to be close to announcing a formal application to join the programme for 2024.

Earlier this year, ICC chief executive David Richardson told Press Association Sport a decision would have to be reached by the end of July and the "time was right" for cricket to make a concerted push for Olympic inclusion.

However, IOC members Sir Craig Reedie and Adam Pengilly believe cricket's road to an Olympic return will be long, with several significant obstacles.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Reedie said: "I don't think cricket has any chance in 2024 or 2028 because neither of the hosts, Paris and Los Angeles, will be very interested and the sport isn't top of the list of those waiting for a chance.

"That said, India is the biggest reason for bringing cricket in and the Games are driven by television, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility but I would suggest 2032 is a more realistic timescale."

Reedie, a former chairman of the British Olympic Association (BOA) and current World Anti-Doping Agency president, has been an IOC member since 1994.

He has personal experience of getting a sport added to the Olympics as he led badminton's bid to join the 1992 programme in Barcelona when he was president of the World Badminton Federation.

"I think about 35 people played badminton in Spain at the time badminton was added in 1985 but, fast forward to 2016, and the women's singles winner in Rio was Spanish, Carolina Marin, so that shows you the significance of getting into the Games," said Reedie.

His reference to the importance of India in any conversation about Olympic cricket is two-fold, as the sport's richest market has been the main barrier within the ICC to an Olympic bid up until now but would also be the ICC's trump card.

Press Association Sport understands the ICC is confident Indian cricket's governing body the BCCI is warming to the idea of the Olympics, particularly after India's run to the final of the Women's World Cup and the huge television audiences attracted by that narrow defeat to England.

For the IOC's part, the attraction of bringing in South Asia's favourite sport is obvious, especially when you consider that India, the world's second most populous nation, has only won one gold medal since 1980.

Pengilly, a two-time winter Olympian who joined the IOC in 2010 as part of the athletes' commission, agreed that the prospect of India - or Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Sri Lanka - winning a medal would help cricket's cause but was not overly optimistic about its chances of joining any time soon.

"New nations winning medals is good, that worked really well for mixed curling, for example," said Pengilly.

"But I think there are still too many factors working against cricket: it's not global, it's not particularly 'youth' and it doesn't meet many of the key Olympic themes.

"If the next host was Australia, it might have a chance. But France and the US don't play much cricket, and I can't see there being much support in countries that don't play cricket."

Pengilly and Reedie both raised another important issue: has the ICC tried hard enough, for long enough, to gain Olympic status?

Reedie said the sport was "fairly active a few years ago" but then the lobbying stopped because it was felt "India didn't want it".

He added that this has changed recently, with smaller cricketing nations such as Afghanistan, Ireland and Kenya, aware of the Olympics' ability to unlock new investment, pushing for inclusion.

Pengilly noted that cricket has not "played the game" by getting involved in the IOC-backed World Games for sports not included in the Olympics, a route that has worked for badminton, beach volleyball, trampolining, rugby sevens, taekwondo, triathlon and others.

Pengilly also raised the vexed issue of the IOC's need to keep a closer eye on costs.

"It's hard for team sports because of the high athlete numbers," he said. "In my opinion, it could be a good idea for the ICC to push for just women's cricket. I think that would have more chance."

There is, however, one part of the British Olympic family that is unequivocally behind cricket's bid for Olympic status.

Perhaps with an eye on another medal or two, BOA chairman Sir Hugh Robertson said: "The BOA would be very supportive of cricket achieving Olympic status, especially on the basis of women's and men's participation.

"We have an excellent relationship with the England and Wales Cricket Board, and remember the use of Lord's for the archery at London 2012 with great affection.

"Cricket has previously featured in the Commonwealth Games (in 1998) where it was deemed a great addition and, of course, we are all delighted to have seen the recent success of the Women's World Cup in this country."

  Sir Craig Reedie reckons cricket will have to wait for Olympic inclusion
Sir Craig Reedie reckons cricket will have to wait for Olympic inclusion