Features and Interviews

Will Snooker be in Tokyo 2020?

On Thursday, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association announced that it has engaged heavily in working alongside the World Confederation of Billiard Sports on a bid for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Olympic RingsThe host city in Japan will be able to accept at least one sport as an addition to the list approved at the International Olympic Committee’s extraordinary general meeting in Monaco last year.

The WPBSA and WCBS have this week submitted a bid outlining their case as to why billiards sports should be part of the programme for 2020 Tokyo.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “Snooker has grown at unprecedented levels in recent times and it has been our belief for some time that we should be given our chance on the ultimate global platform for sport. In 2001 we delivered, with great success, our sport to the International World Games in Akita, Japan, a programme which has continued to this day. Today we strongly believe that cue sports has a very powerful case for inclusion in the Olympics in Tokyo.

“Snooker alone is watched by nearly half a billion people worldwide and played competitively in over 90 countries. With pool and carom alongside us under the WCBS, we have competition in around 200 countries, making us one of the world’s most widely practised sports.

“The Olympics brings together the most skilled and dedicated athletes on the planet. There are few sports which can match the skill and concentration of snooker; our players are pushed to their limits in mind and dedication. We are educating people through Cue Zone Into Schools and you do not have to look far to see the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement being promoted at the highest level within our sport.

“Olympic participation is part of our global vision and we are committed to seeing our players competing for gold medals on the Olympic stage. Let’s begin in Tokyo in 2020.”

So what of this bid to be included?

Well, some might see this as a long time coming such has been the lazy approach to getting snooker more greatly recognised by the Olympic movement over the last couple of decades.

There have been ample opportunities in the past to further enhance snooker’s credibility as a Games – whether it be Olympics, Asian, Commonwealth, World or otherwise – sport.

Unfortunately, having suffered from the malaise of inept management down through the years snooker ended up losing more ground that what it ever gained.

So Ferguson et al must be applauded for taking a more serious approach in attempting to get snooker and other cue sports at least within in the conversation of potentially included disciplines.

Could O'Sullivan represent his country at an Olympic Games? - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Could O’Sullivan represent his country at an Olympic Games? – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

That said, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be seeing the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan donning an Olympic gold medal around his neck in five years time.

For one, cue sports faces fierce competition from other sports such as squash and in particular baseball, which already has a huge following in the Far East country.

Another problem that snooker especially must try to rectify is its lack of female participation and competition.

There’s been no real sign over the course of the last few years that any ladies tour of significance is being established, although female participation in the various other billiard and pool disciplines could mask this slightly.

Similarly, with regard to snooker one would have to call into question the amount of nationalities that would actually be competing for the medals.

At this point in time, only Britain, China, Australia, Ireland as well as maybe India and Thailand could be classed as potential medalists.

Yet, when joined by the other cue sports, which are popular across many parts of the Americas, Europe and Asia, the audiences overall are clearly more far-reaching.

Of course, showcasing their talents in an effort to gain a wider following is one of the primary reasons for inclusion in the Olympics anyway.

Many critics will argue that cue sports shouldn’t be included because, in fact, they are not sports at all, rather glorified pub games.

But to that I would simply respond by pointing out the other precision sports that will be involved in Rio 2016 such as archery, shooting and golf.

Regardless, I feel it’s highly unlikely that the bid for cue sports will be successful on this occasion – even with what appears will be a serious push from the WPBSA and WCBS.

However, that they are trying at all can only be taken as a positive and their endeavor may at the very least lead to the IOC judging cue sports more seriously in the future.

Perhaps 2024, as was supposed to be the target in the first place, is a more realistic aspiration.

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