It’s the news softball fans and players have been waiting for …. their favourite sport is back in the Olympic Games!
Tokyo 2020 will mark the long-anticipated return of women’s softball to its status as an Olympic sport, along with baseball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.
IOC delegates voted unanimously on the eve of the Rio Games to add all of the recommended sports.
Softball was an Olympic sport from 1996-2008, and the USA won gold every year except for ’08, losing to Japan in the final. Australia is the only other country to win a medal at all four Olympics.
Softball Australia CEO Chet Gray said the decision created hope for players to achieve their lifelong ambition of playing in the Olympics.
“We’ve got a window of opportunity we’ve got to take advantage of,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for softball to regain its world ranking success.”
Softball, expected to be staged in Yokohama, will have a competition involving six teams. Baseball is likely to be a similar format.
They last featured at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 before being taken off the program and missing the 2012 and the 2016 Games.
“Today’s historic decision by the IOC is a ‘home run’ for the Olympics, our sport and the Tokyo 2020 Games,” World Baseball and Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari said.
“Nations competing for the Olympic gold medal in baseball and softball, in Japan, will best showcase the nature and spirit of our global sport — and it will be the most covered and most exciting international baseball/softball tournaments in history.”
“This will help make the Tokyo Games one of the most innovative Games in history,” IOC Vice-President John Coates said.
“We want to take sport to the youth,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them. Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfils all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it.
“Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
The decision was welcomed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred: “We are excited about the IOC’s announcement restoring baseball and softball to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo,” he said. “Baseball and softball are global sports that belong in the Olympics.”
IOC members voted 85-0 in favour but not before some concerns were raised about baseball, whose US-based stars are not confirmed for the Games.
Softball and baseball were Olympic sports up until 2008, but were eliminated following the Beijing games. They were absent in 2012, and after a 2013 reinstatement bid was denied, remain absent in 2016.
The IOC announced in June that it would recommend all five sports — baseball and softball are considered one sport — for the 2020 Olympic program. Their inclusion became official today via a vote at the 129th IOC Session. The five sports comprise 18 events and 474 athletes, according to the IOC.
The original decision to eliminate softball and baseball was made in 2005, two days after London was awarded the 2012 Games.