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India’s Virat Kohli attends a practice session ahead of their Cricket World Cup match against Pakistan in Ahmedabad. The Indian star will now fancy his chance to add an Olympic gold to his impressive collection. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: The millions of cricket fans are thrilled with the conformation that the sport, along with four others, will be part of the Los Angeles Olympic Games 2028, which allows stars like Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya and Babar Azam and Shaheen Shah Afridi to target Olympic gold.

The inclusion of five sports — flag football, Lacrosse, squash and baseball-softball and cricket — was formally ratified during the 141st International Olympic Committee session in Mumbai on Monday, which followed the board’s recommendation last week.

Opportunity to showcase great sport

ICC Chairman Greg Barclay, who was thrilled at the prospect of seeing the sport at the 2028 Games, commented: “We are thrilled that cricket’s inclusion in the LA28 Olympic Games has been confirmed by the IOC Session today. To have the opportunity to showcase our great sport at the LA28 Games and, hopefully, many Olympic Games to come will be great for players and fans alike.

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Nita Ambani, International Olympic Committee member, delivers her remarks on the inclusion of cricket by the IOC in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games in Mumbai on Monday. Image Credit: ANI

“I’d like to thank the International Olympic Committee and LA28 for their support and for their trust in our organisation’s ability to deliver a world-class event and countless new Olympic fans from all over the world. The fact that the IOC confirmation of our selection occurred here in Mumbai, during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, is truly icing on the cake. The innings has just begun, and we can’t wait to see where this incredible journey leads.”

Fanstastic sport

Mithali Raj, former India captain and leading run-scorer of all time in women’s cricket, said: “It is so exciting that cricket is now an Olympic sport and will make its return at LA28. Players will get the chance to compete for an Olympic gold medal and be part of the games, which will be so special. It’s also a chance for more fans around the world to enjoy our fantastic sport.”

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Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul could also fancy their chances of playing in the Summer Games 2028. Image Credit: AFP

Fast growing global audience

Each host city, under IOC rules, can request the inclusion of several sports for their edition of the Games.

The five sports had already been given the nod from the powerful IOC Executive Board last week, with the session on Monday approving its recommendation.

Cricket, which enjoys a massive following in India and has a fast growing global audience, returns to the Games after more than a century, having appeared once at the 1900 Olympics.

The LA Games proposal is for a six-team Twenty20 cricket tournament for men and women. T20 is a short format of the game.

The IOC hopes cricket’s inclusion will activate and engage a large, new Olympic audience, especially among Asian fans of the sport.

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Shaheen Shah Afridi celebrates after dismissing Shubman Gill during their Image Credit: AFP

The annual Indian Premier League cricket tournament, with an estimated brand value of $8.4 billion, is one of the richest leagues in the world across sports and continues to attract the world’s top players and coaches to India.

The tournament is played in the same T20 format that the game will feature in during the LA 2028 games.

While all five sports’ inclusion is only for one edition of the Games, they are banking on the boost provided by Olympic participation to spur growth as they look to remain an attractive Olympic product going into the next four-year cycle.

Non-contact format of American football

Flag football is a non-contact format of American football played by teams of five. American football last featured as a demonstration sport in 1932 LA Games.

Baseball has featured in several previous Games. It was added to the 2020 Tokyo program after being left off in 2012 and 2016, but it will not be a part of the Paris Games.

Softball, the female counterpart to baseball, has appeared at five previous editions of the Summer Games and was also left off the Paris agenda.

Lacrosse twice appeared as a medal sport at the Olympics, in 1904 and 1908.

— With inputs from Reuters