Hong Kong Open to be inspected by IOC
World No.1 Nicol David says Hong Kong Open is perfect tournament to impress Olympic chiefs as sport bids to win a place in 2020 Games
Nicol David has played her heart out on court - and even danced in the streets - to get squash into the Olympics. It hasn't been quite Gangnam Style, but the world No 1 says she wouldn't mind putting on her dancing shoes again this week in Hong Kong if it would help her sport grab the attention it needs to convince International Olympic Committee observers that it is worthy of becoming a medal sport at the 2020 Games.
"Yes, we have done everything, the players even dancing on the streets of Brooklyn and Kuala Lumpur this year to raise the sport's profile. I hope we have come a long way from our last two failed efforts to get into the Olympics and will be picked as the new sport at the 2020 Games," David said on the eve of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open last night.
For once, Hong Kong's premier squash tournament, which features the world's top men and women, will have to share the limelight with the bid to get into the Olympics - the IOC picking the tournament as the one where the sport will be inspected by members of its programme commission.
"We are determined to put on a grand show," said David Mui Ying-yuen, chairman of Hong Kong Squash.
And David is confident that will be the case. "Hong Kong is the perfect place for the IOC's inspection. They have always put on a good show and the players love coming here. I have no doubt that we can impress the IOC," she said.
Squash is up against baseball, softball, karate, wakeboarding, wushu, roller sports and sport climbing for one berth at the 2020 Olympics.
Bidding for her eighth successive title in the city, having won six Hong Kong Opens and the World Open here in 2005, David feels changes to the game have created a better environment, especially for the spectators.
"We have become more fan-friendly. In the past squash was regarded as a bit too sterile where you couldn't cheer. But now if there is a great shot and the fans cheer, the rally will continue. The players won't stop playing, we have to move with the times and we have adapted," David said.
"This is partly due to the fact that the game is now being taken to the fans. We are playing in shopping malls and in outdoor courts in exotic locations like the Hong Kong harbour or Grand Central Station in New York, where there is outside noise anyway. You can't stop that noise so how can you stop a fan from cheering?" she added.
Earlier this year, David and the rest of the world's leading women took part in flash mob dances - Hong Kong got in on the act in Causeway Bay last month - where they boogied to Beyonce's hit song Run the World. "I wouldn't mind doing it again if it helps carry our message across the world. This is what we need, to raise our profile," David said.
David, 29, will begin her title defence today when she takes on England's Sarah Kippax. Hong Kong's challenge in the women's event is led by world No 9 Annie Au Wing-chi, who plays her first-round match tomorrow against qualifier Joshna Chinappa of India. But first up today will be Joey Chan Ho-ling and Liu Tsz-ling, who come up against qualifiers Kylie Lindsay and Dipikia Pallikal, respectively.
In the men's event, Hong Kong will have two representatives after Max Lee Ho-yin booked a berth with a straight-games victory over Finland's Henrik Mustonen in the qualifying competition yesterday. The other local entry is Leo Au Chun-ming.