|Narayana Ramachandran - President, World Squash Federation|
|Profile of the week|
Tuesday, 11 September 2012 08:33
Mr N. Ramachandran is the President of the World Squash Federation.
A keen sportsman, his experience in sports administration includes a spell as Secretary General of the Squash Rackets Federation of India, where he was instrumental in popularising the sport all over the country.
Mr. Ramachandran is actively associated with several sports organisations. In his capacity as President of the Indian Triathlon Federation, Mr. Ramachandran pioneered, promoted and popularized the comparatively new and gruelling sport of Triathlon in India.
In addition, Mr. Ramachandran is also the Treasurer of the Indian Olympic Association, as well as the Vice President of the Tamil Nadu Olympic Association and a former Vice President of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu.
Outside of sports, Mr. Ramachandran was, until retirement, an Executive Director of India Cements Limited, the largest manufacturer of cement in South India with interests in Sugar, Shipping, Power, Trading & Finance. He remains the Promoter Chairman of Results Investments Private Limited, which has interests in Shipping, Oil, Gas and Power sectors.
Mr. Ramachandran is also the Former President of the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), which is the Premier Business Chamber in Chennai.
He has been a Deputy President of The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India in the past, but remains on the Executive Committee.
Lastly, Mr. Ramachandran is the Honorary Consul of Latvia in Chennai, serving the Consular Districts of Tamilnadu and Kerala.
Firstly, congratulations on your recent re-election, what are your goals for your next term?
The most important thing I have in mind is to try and see how best we can try and become a medal sport in the Summer Olympics. Ever since I got elected, that has been my primary goal.
How confident are you that Squash will be part of the Olympic programme in 2020?
When I did my first presentation to the Olympic Programme Commission (OPC), I was just twenty days into my presidency and we did not succeed. Now, we have had extensive discussions with the International Olympic Committee and we have listened and learnt. They have told us what our defects were and we have tried to rectify those defects. It is up to the members of the OPC and the Executive Board to make the final call. We can only do our best and that is what I am trying to do.
What aspects did you not do well enough in the past?
To start with, we were not TV friendly. The ball could not always be seen well, the matches were very long, there were arguments between the referee and the players, there was no video referee and even the courts were not that great to look at.
During the last three years, we have changed the scoring system, which makes for shorter matches and gives your opponent a better opportunity to win a point on your serve. We have brought in high-definition cameras, which make it easier to see the ball more clearly, and we have brought in a new review system, similar to Hawkeye. We now have a three referee system; one referee can be biased, but not three.
Not only that, we have improved the quality of the court itself. We have experimented with a glass floor, which we think could be a very good thing for squash because you can use lights under it to promote the sport much better; you can show the score, the countries that are playing and the names of the players, and advertising too.
Also, we are trying something like a bear pit enclosure. We are also experimenting with the players entering the court through the sidewalls, rather than the back wall, and so improve quality for TV cameras. We have done all of this to ensure that we become more TV friendly.
15,000 players have already signed up for the largest squash match in history on World Squash Day 2012. What launched this initiative?
It is all to get greater visibility. Squash is played in so many countries, nearly 185 countries all over the world. We are trying to encourage each country around the world to try and do something. For example, the Squash Rackets Federation of India is having championships in every city in the country. It is just a way of enhancing what we are doing. It is not something that can be done by one single individual; it has to be done by a host of people. The WSF is asking all its members to pitch in and help us out. It is a team effort this time.
Is the nature of squash prohibiting the sport from expanding? i.e. large, indoor courts.
Not at all, instead it showcases the sport in every area. For example, this year we had an event in my hometown, Chennai, where we put a glass court in a shopping mall and we had a crowd of 35,000 people over a day. You can take the same court and perfectly put it on the Canary Wharf or Grand Central Station in New York or in the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. For any country that wishes to hold an event, I can showcase their chosen city. For example, in Chennai, we even had it on the beach. So, whether you put it inside or outside, it has the same effect; it will showcase the city.
Squash has member nations, like the Cook Islands, Norfolk Island, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, why do you think the sport is popular in such small countries?
We have had a World Championship and Annual General Meeting in Bermuda. In Guernsey, we have had the women’s World Team championship. We have had very good players coming out of Sri Lanka and we have held an Asian Championship. The sport is spread all over the world, so the size or the number of people does not matter. It is about whether you’re playing squash up to a high standard and how many squash players are in that country.