Fans of softball and baseball will have to wait a little bit longer to find out if their beloved sports make it into the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. After initially saying the new Olympic sports would be determined this year, the IOC has decided to take an extra year (or so) and will name the new sports in 2016.
Baseball and softball are considered the heavy favorites to get back into the games after being removed in 2008. With Japan’s love of both sports and access to world-class facilities, the decision to add the sports seems like a no brainer.
“The whole world is looking at this process, not just the people of Japan,”IOC Vice President John Coates said. “Many sports are interested and this is going to be a very transparent process.”
While there are indeed many sports vying for inclusion, some have a real shot (baseball, softball) while others are less likely to have a chance, like snooker and billiards, for example. Squash, karate, roller sports, skateboarding, surfing, wushu and rock climbing are also hoping to use the IOC to springboard their sports. (Editor’s Note: While I’m not in the room making these choices, surely wushu has no chance, right?)
The main reason baseball and softball are favored has to do with the ruling in December in which the IOC said host cities can propose the inclusion of of one or more events for their games. Baseball (and softball) is huge in Japan, making it a perfect fit.
One hangup, however, is the notion the new sports must be attractive to youths.
“Universality and gender equality are key in selecting new sports or events but the IOC will also consider an up and coming sport that is gaining in popularity especially with youth,” Coates said.
Could this hurt baseball or softball compared to, say, roller sports or surfing? Perhaps, but most feel that’s unlikely as Japan will push hard for the ball sports it prefers.