Tokyo 2020 organisers nominate baseball and softball for potential Olympic inclusion

Mon 22 Jun 2015

The organisers of the 2020 Olympics have nominated eight new sports for possible inclusion in the Tokyo Games, including baseball/softball.

The list, which will be narrowed down in August before being presented to the International Olympic Committee for a decision, consists of baseball/softball, bowling, karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, surfing and martial arts.

Both softball and baseball -- which are combined in the nomination list -- are hugely popular in Japan, where professional teams are avidly followed.  The sports last featured at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
 

Adding value

"We have chosen [these sports] based on principles the Tokyo committee has decided," said panel chair Fujio Mitarai.  According to the committee, new sports to be added to the 2020 Olympics “should be popular among young people and add value to the Games by engaging the Japanese population and new audiences worldwide -- and their selection should be open and fair."

The eight sports have been picked from a longlist of 26 that Tokyo 2020 organisers released earlier this month.  Sports that didn’t make the cut included tug of war, polo, free diving, spearfishing and submerged hockey as well as billiards and American football.

"This is a great day for our sport," said World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari.  "Today baseball and softball -- and the millions of athletes and fans who call it their sport -- reached first base. And on behalf of WBSC and the entire baseball and softball world, I would like to thank Tokyo 2020 and its evaluation panel for this opportunity.  Being considered for the Olympic Games is a tremendous honour for baseball and softball, and the possibility of our athletes playing for their countries on the Olympic stage is a shared point of hope and excitement within our sport."

In August, presentations to Tokyo 2020 organisers will be made by the shortlisted international federations. Tokyo 2020 will have until 30 September 2015 to propose any new events to the International Olympic Committee. The final decision on the composition of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic sports programme will be taken by the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016.
 

Sideshow

However, the nomination of new sports has become something of a sideshow in Tokyo, where a row is raging over who is going to pay for the centrepiece venue.  Tokyo officials have balked at central government demands that the city contribute around $400 million towards the cost of the new National Stadium.

The Olympic stadium has faced two years of widespread criticism, with prominent Japanese architects lambasting Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid's futuristic designs, and the budget has been slashed by 40 percent.

The old National Stadium, built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, was recently demolished and construction on the new venue is scheduled to begin in October.

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