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Squash officials happy after IOC visit

(Reuters) - Wet weather failed to dampen spirits at the Hong Kong Open squash tournament at the weekend and federation officials hope IOC representatives saw the sport's potential to feature on the 2020 Olympic program.

One sport will be added to the program for the 2020 Games with squash up against karate, the Chinese martial art of wushu, baseball, softball, roller sports, wakeboarding and sport climbing.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make its decision on a host for the 2020 Games, as well as which sport to add, at its session in Argentina in September 2013.

World Squash Federation (WSF) President N Ramachandran hoped that the Hong Kong Open, with its outdoor glass court on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, had left a favorable impression with the two IOC representatives.

"I could not be more happy with this weekend," he said in a WSF statement.

"While it is not one of our largest events by capacity, it has been framed to bring squash to the public, and the placing of the all-glass show-court on the Avenue Of The Stars at the harbor certainly did that.

"We hope that the inspectors were happy with the staging, presentation and broadcast of our sport ... and that their positive impressions can be reinforced when we present to the Commission as a whole in Lausanne later this month."

While rain forced the men's semi-finals to be played at an indoor venue on Saturday, the finals went ahead as planned on Sunday in the glass-walled court with Victoria Harbour in the background.

Malaysian Nicol David won her eighth straight Hong Kong title by beating Frenchwoman Camille Serme, while Egypt's 2010 winner Ramy Ashour regained the men's title after beating defending champion James Willstrop.

Walter Sieber, one of the two IOC Programme Commission representatives, said they had learned a lot through the visit.

"We were able to make a very thorough inspection of the way the event was organized, taking into account the needs of the athletes and coaches," he was quoted as saying in the WSF statement.

"Naturally, we also wanted to assess how the glass court is helping to present the sport for broadcast purposes.

"We found that the competition arrangements were of a high level, and on court we were able to see the top players in action too. It has proven to be very informative."

World champion Nick Matthew said the Hong Kong event had shown the stunning glass show-court could be a good fit for the Games.

"This venue shows how you can pick up and take the glass court to any great location in the world, wherever the Olympics is staged," said the Englishman.

"It is great that the IOC group have seen that for themselves."

(Writing by Peter Rutherford in Singapore; Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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