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Squash banks on third-time lucky for Games entry

By Karolos Grohmann

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Squash is hoping a decade of campaigning to join the Olympics will finally pay off on Sunday when the International Olympic Committee selects one sport for inclusion in the 2020 Games.

World Squash Federation (WSF) officials highlighted the sport's inexpensive and compact bid in a news conference in the Argentine capital on Friday, adding that their sport was the only new one in contention.

It is their third attempt to get on to the program after failed efforts at the 2005 and 2009 IOC sessions.

Squash is up against wrestling, which was surprisingly cut from the 2020 program in February before making a shortlist in May, and baseball/softball which was an Olympic sport until the Beijing in 2008 after being booted off future Olympics in 2005.

"This is the culmination of a 10-year campaign," WSF president N Ramachandran told reporters.

"Squash can offer something exciting and fresh to the Olympic experience, and we are proud to be the only new Olympic sport on the shortlist."

Ramachandran, flanked by leading players including world number one Ramy Ashour of Egypt and five-times World Open winner Sarah Fitz-Gerald of Australia, said the concept of a men's and women's singles competition with a total of 64 players was not putting additional strain on the size or cost of the Games.

"We could share a venue if required, or be located to showcase an iconic backdrop - and we have a track record of doing exactly this, such as in front of the Pyramids," he said.

"On Sunday we hope to demonstrate to the IOC that squash is a sport that represents the future, not the past," he said in an obvious dig at the other two candidate sports.

Wrestling, which is a sport that featured in the ancient Olympics in antique Greece, has been in every Games apart from the 1900 Olympics.

Baseball and softball have now regrouped as one federation to improve their chances of an Olympic return.

Wrestling is seen as the favorite for Olympic inclusion, having won praise from the IOC for a string of changes in rules, administration and gender equity since their surprise exit in February.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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