OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Softball will not be included in the programme for the 2016 Olympic Games as the 15 members of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Executive Board decided Thursday at a meeting in Berlin. One of the seven sports in contention for the 2016 Games, softball was passed over in favor of golf and rugby as the list of possible additions was narrowed down to a final two candidates.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed by the IOC decision today as we were hoping for softball to be considered for inclusion in 2016,” said Ron Radigonda, the executive director of the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA)/USA Softball. “However, softball is still an international sport power as we have been. We have to continue to focus on the World Championships next July here in Oklahoma City and future international events. Despite today’s announcement, softball will continue and move on and work to be stronger than ever.”
Also eliminated from contention were baseball, karate, roller sports and squash.
In Copenhagen on October 9, at a meeting that will also decide the host of the 2016 Olympic Games between four candidate cities, golf and rugby are being put forward by the Executive Board for an entire vote of the IOC. Both sports must be approved by the majority of 107 IOC members in order to be added to the Olympic Programme starting with the 2016 Games.
“The (International Softball Federation) and wider softball family is certainly disappointed by today’s decision by the IOC Executive Board not to recommend softball for reinstatement onto the Olympic Games Programme in 2016,” ISF President Don Porter said in a statement. “However, we respect the IOC’s decision and I tip my cap to golf and rugby for getting recommended and offer my sentiments to the other four sports that were not successful today.
Despite exclusion from the Olympic Games the sport will continue on at an international level at prestigious events including the European Championships, the Pan American Games and the World Cup. The softball world will also converge July 16-26, 2010, in Oklahoma City, Okla., for the ISF Women’s World Championships, which will bring 16 countries to the ASA Hall of Fame Complex.
The Olympic Games have been the marquee event of the sport since softball joined the programme at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Falling one vote short necessary of the two-thirds majority, softball was eliminated from 2012 London Games programme following a vote of the entire IOC in 2005. With no reinstatement for 2016, the Olympic future remains unclear for softball, which has approximately 9 million players across the world, according to the ISF.
Back Softball, a worldwide initiative the ISF started to support the reinstatement of the sport for 2016, has been successful in increasing the reach of the sport to African and Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan and Sierra Leone, each which started national federations. The campaign has also brought more than $250,000 worth of softball equipment to almost two-dozen developing nations and has started wheelchair softball programmes for the disabled in others.
“The ISF has worked tirelessly for more than four years since we were voted off the 2012 Olympic Programme and we have made tremendous advances in that time,” Porter said. “Softball has more players, a long list of member federations, a more solid and appropriate organizational framework, and development programs that are producing phenomenal results on every continent.”
Another goal of increasing the amount of worldwide television exposure for the sport was also met. On Wednesday, the ASA announced that ratings for the 2009 World Cup of Softball, held July 16-20 in Oklahoma City, increased 9-percent from the 2007 World Cup broadcasts. The Beijing Rematch between Japan and the USA on ESPN saw the highest single game rating, 0.8, of the17 telecasts providing more than 34 hours of softball coverage. While all seven USA games were broadcast and also streamed online, selected games from ESPN’s coverage were televised globally to 146 countries across ESPN International networks including Atlantic, Pacific Rim, Australia HD, Brazil HD, Israel, Middle East, ESPN Caribbean, ESPN2 Caribbean, and ESPN America.
The United States won the first of three consecutive Olympic Gold Medals in Atlanta. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, the Japanese women took home the Gold Medal, with the USA and Australia joining Japan on the podium. With close to 180,000 spectators throughout the Beijing tournament and a continuation of the sport’s excellent record of no positive doping tests at any of the four Olympic Games that the sport has been a part of, the 2008 Olympic Games proved to be another success for the growing sport that looks toward other events in the absence of the next two Olympic Games.
“Softball players continue to dream of Olympic gold, the ultimate prize in our sport, and we will carry on our campaign for Olympic reinstatement to prove to the IOC that our sport fits with Olympic values and ambitions and deserves a place on merit on the Games Programme,” Porter said.