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Squash aiming for the 2020 Games

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We’re not yet sure where the Olympics will be held in 2020 (though we’re guessing Istanbul gets the nod), but it’s already time to start looking at which sports will make the cut when the Summer Games return, then leave, then return again eight years from now.

Seven events will be vying for a spot on the 2020 schedule, including baseball and softball in a co-bid, but Squash has been making a lot of noise in its aim for inclusion. World Squash Federation President Rami Ramachandrans told Inside the Games that they might have figured out the formula.

“One of the big things is the introduction of glass courts, which has made squash much more spectator friendly,” Ramachandrans said. “It is one of the things that has helped improved the presentation of the game along with other measures like using under floor lighting, music, referee video review…”

His idea seems to be that making the Squash cooler will ultimately get his sport in to the Games, which was far-fetched before the IOC began awarding medals in snowboarding and BMX. Now cool spectator sports are ideal for Olympics fans growing up in an X-Games world.

“Courts can be placed in amazing iconic locations – in front of pyramids, harbour side, in museums or anywhere else to really bring a host city to life,” Ramachandrans added. “It would also create a real squash sporting legacy for that host city.”

And so the WSF launched its “Back the Bid” campaign, a movement that saw flashmobs, Twitter campaigns, and more than 40,000 enthusiasts celebrating World Squash Day around the globe. Not nearly the same as the millions upon millions that most sports boast, but it’s a definitely start.

An added bonus is how much the Olympics love racket and country club sports, and Squash, which has been called “jet-propelled chess” (though only by people who play Squash), is both. All that said, visions of men and women hitting balls around glass cages might be something we should get used to.

The seven sports will present their cases to the IOC Executive Board early next year. Game on.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

Fenway Big Air
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Fenway Park will host some of the world’s best freeskiers in the one-of-a-kind Big Air at Fenway, live on NBC Sports Live Extra on Friday night.

Big air skiers will descend from a ramp that’s four times higher than the Green Monster inside the hallowed Boston Red Sox home.

Ski big air is most like slopestyle of the current Olympic disciplines, except skiers get one jump per run.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

On Thursday, Canadian Max Parrot and American Julia Marino won the snowboard big air competitions at Fenway Park.

Big Air at Fenway coverage will conclude with an NBC show on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.

MORE: Olympic champ suffers concussion at Big Air at Fenway practice

Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympics open with homages to 1994

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In an homage to the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics, Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway lit the Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympic cauldron to cap the Opening Ceremony on Friday night.

The princess’ father, Crown Prince Haakon, lit the 1994 Olympic cauldron in a very similar fashion (video here). Princess Ingrid Alexandra was born in 2004.

The Opening Ceremony, held outdoors at a ski jump (same venue as 1994) in sub-freezing temperatures, included a speech from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

“I’m just a little bit too old to compete in the YOG,” Bach said, urging listeners to use the hashtag #IloveYOG during the nine-day Winter Games.

The ceremony included Olympic legends, such as 2010 figure skating gold medalist Yuna Kim and eight-time Olympic cross-country champion Bjorn Daehlie carrying the Olympic flag.

Marit Bjoergen, a 10-time Olympic medalist cross-country skier, handed the Olympic flame to the princess.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. ET, plus daily coverage throughout the Winter Games. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: Two years to Pyeongchang: Updates on U.S. Olympic medalists from Sochi