Cricket and flag football were among five sports added to the programme for the 2028 Los Angeles Games on Monday after being approved by the International Olympic Committee as it looks to tap into new global audiences. Lacrosse, squash and baseball-softball were also approved at an IOC meeting in Mumbai, having been proposed by 2028 organisers.
Under IOC rules, each host city can request the inclusion of several sports for their edition of the Games. The five sports put forward by the organisers had already been given the nod from the powerful IOC Executive Board last week, with the session on Monday approving its recommendation with a show of hands.
"Cricket has evolved very, very much over recent years," IOC President Thomas Bach told reporters. "We have seen the growing international importance of cricket and the Olympic Games want to incorporate the most popular sports worldwide."
The IOC session also approved the inclusion of modern pentathlon, after the international federation replaced horse riding with an obstacle running course following a scandal at the Tokyo Olympics where a coach struck a horse that refused to jump a fence.
Weightlifting also secured its spot after changes were made to its anti-doping testing procedures, among other things. Both sports had been provisionally left out of the LA Games. Boxing's participation remained in doubt and any decision to include it was put on hold pending developments in governance issues.
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, with a proposed six-team Twenty20 format - the shortest international format of the game- for both women and men.
"We are thrilled that cricket's inclusion in the LA28 Olympic Games has been confirmed by the IOC Session today," International Cricket Council Chairman Greg Barclay said.
"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." The IOC hopes cricket's inclusion will activate and engage a large, new Olympic audience, with the sport's worldwide fan base estimated at 2.5 billion people.
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 also played in the T20 format.
While all five sports' inclusion is for only one edition of the Games, they are banking on the boost provided by participation to spur growth and remain an attractive Olympic product going into the next four-year cycle.
Flag football is a non-contact format of American football played by teams of five. American football last featured as a demonstration sport in the 1932 LA Games. "We are convinced that flag football will offer an exciting new dimension to the Games -- uniting them, for the first time in history, with America’s number one sport in its youngest, most accessible and inclusive format," said Pierre Trochet, head of the International Federation of American Football.
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, while squash had long pushed for inclusion, most recently in 2013 for the 2020 Olympics.
"The inclusion of squash ... is a significant breakthrough for the sport," U.S. Squash Chief Executive Kevin Klipstein said.
"Being part of the Olympic Games has been a long-held goal for the squash community, and inclusion will serve as a catalyst to increase awareness of what is already a major participatory sport globally with a long and diverse history."