The 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles will feature five new sports: baseball/softball, cricket, flag football, lacrosse and squash. These sports were proposed by the LA28 Organizing Committee and approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The aim is to attract new and diverse audiences, showcase innovative and community-based sports, and expand the Olympic presence in digital spaces. Some of the sports will make their debut at the LA games while others will make a return, some after a very long absence. What they have in common is their relative lack of importance as competitive sports in the Dutch sport ecosystem.
Known as honkbal in the lingua franca, Dutch baseball has a long history. The Dutch baseball federation was set up in 1912 and Quick Amsterdam, the oldest club in Europe, was founded a year later.
The Netherlands have a national baseball team, known as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which represents the four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Aruba, Curaçao, the Netherlands and Sint Maarten. Over the years, it has shared the stage with Italy as one of the best sides in Europe. The team has taken part in four Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal in 1996. The team also competes in the World Baseball Classic, where it reached the semifinals in 2013 and 2017. However, the Kingdom team, like their Italian rivals, did not play up to expectations in the European Championship held this year in the Czech Republic with the Dutch taking third behind Spain and Great Britain.
Baseball and softball, which is the variant for female participation, were dropped from the Olympic bill of fare following the 2008 games. Rumor has it that then IOC delegate HRW William Alexander did little to lobby for baseball and softball’s survival as Olympic sports. The two sports would rejoin the fray in 2000 in Tokyo for a once-off appearance that will not be repeated in Paris during the 2024 Summer Games. The inclusion of baseball/softball in the 2028 Olympics could provide traction to calls to re-instate the two sports to the Summer Games.
Cricket is a relatively minor sport in the Netherlands, but it has a long history and a loyal fan base. The first recorded cricket match in the Netherlands took place in 1881, and the first official cricket club was founded in 1883. The Netherlands has a national cricket team, which is an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC). The team has qualified for four ICC T20 World Cups and three ICC Cricket World Cups, where it achieved some notable upsets against full members such as England, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As this edition of the Holland Times goes to press, the World Cup in India was still ongoing. In India, the Dutch scripted cricketing history by defeating the in-form South Africans by 38 runs in a rain-truncated game in Dharamshala.
The Netherlands has a domestic cricket league, which consists of two divisions with 18 teams. The league runs from May to September and attracts players from various backgrounds and nationalities. While the official membership numbers in the Netherlands are tiny (5,000), the budget of the Dutch Cricket Federation is substantial and they are very well organized.
The inclusion of cricket in the 2028 Olympics could potentially boost the popularity and development of cricket in the Netherlands, especially if the national team performs well on the global stage. The exposure and recognition of cricket could also attract more sponsors, media coverage and public support for the sport. Furthermore, the introduction of cricket to a wider audience could increase the cultural diversity and social inclusion of cricket players and fans in the Netherlands.
Flag football is a variant of American football that is played with flags or belts attached to the players’ waist instead of helmets or pads. The objective is to remove the flag or belt from the ball carrier to end a down, instead of tackling them to the ground.
Flag football is designed to be safer and more accessible than tackle football, as it requires less equipment and physical contact. Flag football is also more suitable for mixed-gender teams and players of different ages and abilities.
Flag football is not very well-known or widely played in the Netherlands, compared to other European countries such as France or Germany. However, there are a number of youth teams as well as several adult flag football that compete under the auspices of the Dutch federation, the AFBN. Additionally, there are some initiatives that promote flag football as a recreational or educational activity for schools or communities, which is a lasting legacy of the Amsterdam Admirals, a professional team funded by the NFL from 1995-2007.
The inclusion of flag football in the 2028 Olympics could potentially spark more interest and participation in flag football in the Netherlands. The elevation of the world governing body IFAF to full IOC membership should bolster the sport’s standing with the the NOC*NSF, the overall coordinating Dutch sports organisation that also functions as the Dutch National Olympic Committee. The exposure and recognition of flag football could also create more opportunities for collaboration and exchange between flag football players and organizations in the Netherlands and abroad such as current initiative in Suriname.
Lacrosse is a team sport that originated from Native American tribes, where players use a long-handled stick with a netted head to catch, carry and throw a small rubber ball into the opponent’s goal. Lacrosse is played in different versions, such as field lacrosse, box lacrosse and women’s lacrosse, each with its own rules and equipment. Lacrosse is known for its fast pace, physical contact and skillful maneuvers. Lacrosse has been contested at two editions of the Summer Olympic Games, 1904 and 1908. Both times a Canadian team won the competition.
Lacrosse is a relatively new and niche sport in the Netherlands, but it has a growing and enthusiastic community. The first lacrosse club in the Netherlands was founded in 2000, and the first national lacrosse federation was established in 2002. The Netherlands has national lacrosse teams for both men and women, which compete in regional and international tournaments. The Netherlands also has a domestic lacrosse league, which consists of two divisions with 12 teams for men and 10 teams for women.
The inclusion of lacrosse in the 2028 Olympics could potentially increase the popularity and development of lacrosse in the Netherlands but the stakeholders here will need to take full advantage of the momentum as, like flag football, the tenure of lacrosse in the Olympics will likely be limited to Los Angeles.
Squash is a racket sport that is played on a four-walled court with a small hollow rubber ball. The objective is to hit the ball against the front wall so that it bounces back before the opponent can return it. Squash is known for its high intensity, agility and strategy. Squash is played in different versions, such as singles, doubles and hardball squash, each with its own rules and equipment.
Squash is a fairly popular and well-established sport in the Netherlands, with a long history and a large number of avid participants.
The first squash club in the Netherlands was founded in 1938, and the first national squash federation was established in 1939. The Netherlands has national squash teams for both men and women, which compete in regional and international tournaments. The Netherlands also has a domestic squash competition. Inclusion in the Olympic line up could provide squash more exposure and perhaps move it back out of the shadows of the “Padel hype” currently engulfing the Netherlands.
Whether or not their inclusion in the Summer Games of 2028 will have significant impact on the sports here in the Netherlands remains to be seen. What is certain is that their participants and followers will enjoy more spotlight on their sometimes-under-illuminated pastimes. It will also provide the younger generation of athletes new and exciting goals perhaps best exemplified by a young Dutch baseball talent named Dylan Farley who stated,
“It’s a dream come true for me and many of my generation to see baseball back in the Olympics. The Olympics represent the pinnacle of sports, and being a part of it is an incredible honor. It’s a chance to showcase our passion and talent on the world stage unlike any other event.”
Written by John Mahnen