The combined bid of baseball and softball were among eight sports shortlisted Monday for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Tokyo Olympic organisers selected the eight from a list of 26 sports that applied for inclusion. The other sports shortlisted are bowling, karate, roller sports, climbing, squash, surfing and the martial art of wushu. Baseball and women’s softball is considered a favourite, however, because of the popularity of those sports in Japan.
“This is a great day for our sport,” said Riccardo Fraccari, the president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation. “Today baseball and softball – and the millions of athletes and fans who call it their sport –reached first base.”
The federations of the eight sports will next make presentations in Tokyo in early August and organisers will make recommendations for inclusion to the International Olympic Committee by 30 September.
The IOC will make a final decision on which sports will be added in August 2016, when it meets before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Under the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms approved in December, the IOC agreed to abolish the cap of 28 sports for the summer Games and move to an “events-based” system that would allow new competitions to come in, while keeping to about 10,500 athletes and 310 medal events. Host cities are allowed to propose the inclusion of one or more additional events for their Games.
Baseball and softball were dropped after the 2008 Games in Beijing and have failed in several bids for reinstatement. They would be a huge draw in Japan, even without the participation of players from Major League Baseball which has said it will not alter its schedule to accommodate the Olympics.
Many of the sports up for consideration have applied for Olympic inclusion in the past, some multiple times. Among the sports that applied and did not make the cut were American football, polo, racquetball and sumo.
Organisers were eager to pick sports that have an appeal with youth and would not require the building of new facilities. Tokyo organisers have been looking for ways to reduce costs.