Are the Olympics ready to embrace snooker for Tokyo games?
Snooker has finally submitted a bid to be included in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with Japan’s host city permitted to add one more sport to the list already approved by the International Olympic committee.
The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association have made the move after claiming the sport has the potential to be greeted worldwide, with almost half a billion people already watching and playing snooker in over 90 different countries.
A constantly growing audience makes the sport a viable candidate to capture the single remaining place in the Olympic committee’s validated sporting list, and propel snooker on to a global stage.
This could mean stars such as this year’s Masters champion Shaun Murphy, 14/1 with Coral to win the World Championship, could be seen competing in the same major event as track and field athletes Usain Bolt and Mo Farah.
Chairman Jason Ferguson argued the sport’s case, suggesting snooker should be seated alongside the world’s other top sports, but it faces competition from skateboarding and baseball for the last sporting slot.
“There are few sports which can match the skill and concentration of snooker,” said Ferguson. “Our players are pushed to their limits in mind and dedication. 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.”
Arguments against the bid can be seen as that of a narrow and restricted view, with those opposing snooker’s involvement claiming that a lack of athleticism or physical manoeuvres prevent this from claiming the title of a true professional sport.
However, sport cannot only be measured by the amount athletes sweat or by the distance that is covered. It goes a lot deeper than that, with mental attributes proving a vital aspect of professional sporting achievements in the current climate.
Snooker is as much about being mentally strong as it is possessing potent potting ability, with the major events such as the World Championship and Masters providing an immense and daunting atmosphere for players.
Similar to recognised Olympic sports such as sprinting and archery, snooker requires a strong mental attitude and terrific talent to succeed. Ronnie O’Sullivan is a prime example of someone at the summit of snooker’s requirements as a professional but he has been, like the sport itself, overlooked for various awards and accolades.
Snooker was part of the World Games in Colombia in 2013, where players from a minimum of 12 countries competed for gold, silver and bronze medals.
The elegant cue-sport has been part of the Asian Games programme since Bangkok in 1998 and at the Guangzhou games in 2010, with men’s singles titles being won by Hong Kong’s Marco Fu.
Chinese cueman Ding Junhui currently leads the way for future Asian snooker stars, the former world number one has secured five ranking event victories in his career, earning over £2m in prize winnings.
‘The Chinese Sensation’ has opened the door for future Asian potters to break through on-the-baize and has already inspired many, with Liang Wenbo, Xiao Guodong, Cao Yupeng and Dechawat Poomjaeng just a few of those featuring on the professional tour in past seasons.
As its popularity continues to grow, snooker could soon be cued up for a shot on the Olympic stage in years to come. The sport’s current shining light O’Sullivan is odds-on 7/4 favourite to clinch a sixth world title at this year’s Crucible event.