NEW DELHI: The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) is eager to have cricket at the 2026 Asian Games in Japan and is exploring the idea of converting a baseball stadium in Nagoya for this purpose.

Cricket administrators perceive multi-sport eve­nts like the Asian Games as an opportunity to boost the game, which will return to the Olympics at Los Angeles 2028 after a 128-year gap.

Cricket featured in the Hangzhou Games in China last year but wasn’t part of the 2018 Games in Jakarta and Palembang in Indonesia.

“We are still working on the sports programme for the 2026 Games but yes, we would want cricket to be part of it,” OCA acting president Randhir Singh said.

The lack of cricket facilities in Japan, however, remains an issue. There is an international cricket stadium in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, but the OCA prefers a facility in or around Nagoya, the capital of Aichi prefecture where the Games will be held.

The Tochigi stadium would be a three-and-a-half hour drive from Nagoya, said OCA Deputy Director General Vinod Kumar Tiwari, who visited Japan last month with an OCA coordination committee to oversee preparations.

“We are working with the Asian Cricket Council on this,” Tiwari said.

The programme for the 2026 Games will be finalised at an OCA General Assembly in April.

“It will be great to have cricket in the 2026 Games, and we at JCA will provide all kind of support,” Japan Cricket Association chief executive Naoki Alex Miy­aji said. “It would leave a fantastic legacy, and go a long way in promoting the game in the country.”

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2024

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