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Updated: December 8, 2014
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(Story & Photos by Marco Stoovelaar)

IOC approves more flexibility on Olympic Sports Programme
LARVOTTO (Monaco) - The door appears wide open for baseball and softball to make its comeback on the Olympic Programme. Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opened its two-day 127th Session at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. During this meeting, some 40 recommendations are discussed.

One of those recommendations was adopting a more flexible Olympic sports programme, which was approved by the IOC-members. This means not limiting a Games to 28 sports, but giving the organizing country the possibility to add sports.

This will go into effect in 2020, when the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo (Japan). It is generally known that baseball and softball are favorite and popular sports in Japan. And so, the Tokyo Organizing Committee can request to the IOC for baseball and softball to be put on its Programme for the 2020 Games.

Baseball and softball were last played on the Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing (China). There, both the Netherlands Baseball Team and Netherlands Softball Team participated.

After several demonstration-events, baseball first was an official medal-sport in 1992 (Barcelona, Spain), while softball made its medal-debut in 1996 (Atlanta, USA).

The Netherlands Baseaball Team participated in the demonstration tournament in 1988 in Seoul (South Korea), then it participated in all Olympics since 1996, meaning the Orange squad also was on the Games in 2000 (Sydney, Australia), 2004 (Athens, Greece) and 2008 (Beijing, China). The Netherlands Softball Team represented Europe on the first softball-tournament in 1996, then qualified again for the 2008 Olympics. Italy participated with its baseball-team in 1992, while the softball-team participated in 2000 and 2004.

In a press release, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) states that it joins the worldwide chorus of support following the successful reception and endorsement of key Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms at the extraordinary IOC session in Monaco today, particularly regarding the adoption of a more flexible Olympic sports programme. On behalf of the worldwide baseball and softball family, WBSC-President Riccardo Fraccari congratulated and thanked IOC-President Thomas Bach, the IOC Members and working groups for leading and driving the reforms, which sport experts say will open a new chapter in world sport.

...WBSC-President Riccardo Fraccari...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
,,The WBSC fully shares the IOC's vision of Olympic reform under President Bach, and stands ready to support and assist the Olympic Movement in implementing the reforms, wherever baseball and softball can help'', Fraccari said.

,,Above all the Olympic Games is the world's most inspirational sporting event, and the Agenda 2020 reforms will inspire more young people and women, who are the future of all sports, to take up more sport and to participate in sport and in the values of sport, and make sport more relevant to the next generation, and as a catalyst for change in our communities and societies'', Fraccari added.

President Fraccari indicated that the WBSC would wait for guidance and direction from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organisers to determine how the new reforms could involve baseball and softball.

As potential Olympic sports, baseball and softball - sports that embody and promote gender-equality - would also help to take the Olympic values and focus on sport to 65 million players and 250 million fans at all levels worldwide, and make the Olympic Games more relevant in more regions of the world where baseball and softball are growing in popularity, especially among young people and women, and have become national sports.

President Fraccari said that as the world governing body overseeing baseball and softball, the WBSC is humbled by the opportunity provided by the reforms to be included in the Olympic Games which enable future Olympic host cities and organising committees, including Tokyo 2020, to include additional sporting events in the Olympic sports programme, which could potentially include baseball and softball, two of the most popular sports in the world that have experienced a wave of global development in recent years.

The new more flexible approach to Olympic sport approved by the IOC session has provided a massive boost of optimism and hope that the changes could result in baseball and softball joining the Olympic Games sports programme.

Fraccari: ,,Today, there is excitement circulating around the baseball and softball world and there is great hope that our athletes will now have a real opportunity - the pinnacle and highest honour in our sport - to play for their country, aiming to win an Olympic gold medal. The reforms herald a new era for sports and athletes worldwide, and provide important hope and inspiration for sports and athletes wanting to participate in the world's most important global sporting event, the Olympic Games.''

,,While baseball and softball have very deep historic and contemporary connections in sporting communities and at all levels of society in Japan, the sports are experiencing worldwide popularity and growth, with new as well as existing and upgraded venues able to host the sports in both traditional and new markets in Africa, the Middle East as well as in Europe'', Fraccari continues.

...The Olympic Softball Stadium in Beijing...

...The Olympic Baseball Stadium in Beijing...
(© Photos: Marco Stoovelaar)

(December 8)

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