Cricket, baseball/softball, soccer, lacrosse and squash are included in the program for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. What does this mean for Dutch federations and athletes in these five sports? “Games…I never thought about that.”
At the 141st IOC Congress in Mumbai, India, it was confirmed on Monday that the five sports will be given a stage in the 2028 Olympic Games.
The Olympic program consists of 28 “basic sports”. Organizing committees may also nominate a maximum of six sports they wish to add (on a one-off basis). Tokyo (2021) was the first and chose sports that should appeal to young people: baseball/softball, karate, skiing, sport climbing, and surfing. Paris (2024) has followed this line, meaning break dancing, skateboarding, climbing and surfing will be on display for the first time in the French capital next year.
It is clear that the Americans are taking a different path. The LA 2028 organizing committee nominated five sports that are very popular in the United States or around the world. To illustrate, football alone (3.5 billion people) has more fans around the world than cricket (2.5 billion people). American football is the largest sport in the United States.
In the Netherlands, the five newcomers to LA 2028 are certainly not among the most popular sports. But this is exactly why the upcoming Olympic situation offers so many possibilities, representatives of the new sports tell NU.nl.
IOC-sessie: goed en slecht nieuws
Maandag hebben de IOC-leden besloten cricket, honkbal/softbal, flag football, lacrosse en squash toe te voegen aan het olympisch programma van 2028. Dat is slecht nieuws voor karate, kickboksen, breakdance en motorsport. Die vier sporten hoopten ook op een olympische status in LA.
What is this? Players use a stick with a net on the end, with which they throw and catch a rubber ball. The goal is to shoot the ball into the opponent’s goal.
A new, faster type of lacrosse was designed for gaming. Teams play with six players instead of ten, the court is smaller, there is a shot clock, and there is less contact between men.
Former Olympic: 1904 and 1908.
International pressure to include lacrosse in the Games has been ongoing for years. This gave the Dutch Federation plenty of time to prepare. “Lacrosse at the Games is a dream come true,” says Secretary Fred Berendsen of the Dutch Lacrosse Association (NLB). “But I can imagine that after our Olympic status is finalized, we’ll still be thinking: ‘Oh my God, what’s coming our way?’
Lacrosse is a popular high school and college sport in the United States. In the Netherlands it is small and little known. “I always say: even though we have few athletes, we do very well with our national teams,” says Berendsen. “The women finished 17th at the last World Cup and the men finished 14th.”
“Our dream as a federation is to offer players more time and support in their major sporting career. I especially hope for our best athletes that lacrosse will become more visible in the Netherlands.”
What is this? A form of American football where there is little contact. The team consists of five players. They all wear two “flags” on their belts. The player who has the ball can be stopped by taking this flag. Transaction is not permitted.
At both ends of the field there is a 9-metre goal area (“end zone”). If a player fields the ball, either by running with it or catching the ball, it is a score.
Former Olympic: Never Olympic before.
“Olympic soccer…I never thought about that when I started the sport,” says Cliff Dankers. He has been playing for multiple Dutch champions Hague Heena for years. The American Football Association Netherlands (AFBN) appointed him national coach of the Dutch national team for the “Road to Los Angeles 2028” project.
“As a young footballer, you dream of making it to the NFL (the major American competition, ed.). This is possible for very few players, but now there is an Olympic opportunity. A very special opportunity.”
Dankers, who finished ninth with the Netherlands at this year’s European Championships, estimates that between 300 and 400 Dutch people currently play flag football. “As a national coach, I have a small pond to fish. We have open training on October 22. I expect a lot of people will come to that if the Olympic status becomes final.”
Dankers in particular hopes that flag football will gain a prominent sporting status in the Netherlands. “We all currently play this sport as a hobby and we also have a job. It would be a dream to be able to play football full time.”
What is this? A team sport in which batters can score runs (runs) by hitting the ball away from the pitcher. Pitchers, along with their teammates (infielders), try to get hitters out and keep the number of strikeouts as low as possible.
The shortest format of cricket will be used in the games: Twenty20. Each team gets 20 overs (each consisting of six balls) to score as many runs as possible.
In India, hundreds of millions of people view cricket as a religion. The contrast with the Netherlands and their 5,000 active players is great. “Cricket is not known here, so it is not loved,” says Monika Visser, director of the Dutch Cricket Association KNCB.
“But we have very big ambitions. We want to have 10,000 active members by 2025. And of course the Olympic status will help greatly in achieving this goal. It opens new doors.”
The Dutch men’s national team is currently participating in the World Cup tournament held in India, which is one of the largest sporting events in the world. “This tournament is also incredibly helpful in getting publicity for Dutch cricket, but especially at international level,” Visser says. “The Games could be a great flywheel to attract more attention in our country. And for more professionalism in all matters surrounding our national teams.”
What is this? Individual racquet sports. Squash is played in a closed room. Players can also use walls to hit the ball to the opponent.
Former Olympic: Never Olympic before.
It was expected that squash would be included in the Olympic program in 2012 and 2016. “But for some unclear reason, it was not successful,” says Ad Heeskes, president of the Dutch Squash Federation.
Squash has done a lot in recent years to make the sport attractive to the International Olympic Committee. For example, the points system was simplified, video refereeing was introduced and television scoring was improved and updated.
In the Netherlands, squash is mainly an amateur sport, not for competitive players or top athletes. The number of members of the Squash Federation is about 7,000. Ruan Daming (now 19) became the first Dutch squash world champion last year, winning gold at the World Under-19 Championships.
“There is definitely some Dutch talent,” Heskis says. “But it is not always easy to retain such talent in squash. Players who want to become professionals after a few years often come to the conclusion that it is difficult to make money this way. As a federation we say: stay in squash, we support them.” You. This message is easier if the sport is Olympic.
Former Olympic: 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2021.
Baseball (men) and softball (women) slowly became FC Volendam’s go-to game. In recent years, the sport has been continuously promoted and relegated from a non-Olympic sport to an Olympic sport or vice versa. “It’s a little weird, this is up and down,” Scott Prinz says.
The 22-year-old pitcher made his debut with the Dutch baseball team last year. He is happy that he can look forward to Olympic participation again, after his sport was passed over for Paris 2024. “I grew up with the Games and always look forward to them. And my coach Dirk van’t Kloster (former international, Ed.) has told a lot of stories about his Olympic experiences This looks really cool.”
Dutch baseball and softball players traditionally belong to the best teams in Europe. The men were even world champions in 2011. “That gave a big boost to baseball in the Netherlands,” Prince says. “But it’s still a relatively small sport here. I hope the Olympic return in 2028 will ensure that many young kids will play baseball and softball again.”
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