RIO DE JANEIRO — Back in the game! The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted unanimously during Wednesday’s 129th IOC Session to include baseball/softball in the sports package for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The decision adds five sports — baseball/softball (counting as one sport for the purpose of the vote, since it was a combined bid by the two sport organizations), surfing, karate, skateboarding and sport climbing — only for the 2020 Tokyo Games. A vote to support their inclusion in future Olympics would need to come at a later date, as the host city's sport selections are not binding on future Games hosts.
The host for the 2024 Summer Olympics will be announced at the September 2017 IOC conference in Lima, Peru. The four finalists for 2024 are Los Angeles, Rome, Paris and Budapest.
“What a truly great day for the sports of softball and baseball,” said ASA/USA Softball Executive Director Craig Cress. “For softball and baseball to be added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games program is a dream come true for many athletes across the world. USA Softball is proud to be the National Governing Body for the sport of softball and will continue to work diligently every day to promote our great sport of softball on the world stage.”
“Thank you to the IOC and the WBSC for this tremendous honor for not only our sport, but our athletes and the millions of young girls who dream of one day being an Olympian,” USA Softball Women’s National Team athlete Janie Takeda said following the announcement. “This means so much to not only our USA Softball Women’s National Team program, but to millions of girls across the world. Even if I’m not there, knowing that softball athletes will get to compete on the highest stage against the best competition in the world is amazing.”
The Organizing Committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics proposed the new sports in 2015 in response to the new flexibility provided by Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC’s strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, to encourage innovation in the Olympic program. Olympic Agenda 2020 gives host cities the option of suggesting new sports and events for inclusion in their edition of the Games.
The package of new sports represents a combination of well-established and emerging sports with significant popularity in Japan and beyond. They include team sports and individual sports; indoor sports and outdoor sports; and ‘urban’ sports with a strong appeal to youth. The sport additions constitute “the most comprehensive evolution of the Olympic program in modern history,” the IOC has previously stated. The package promotes gender equality, with each of the five sports having equal numbers of teams for men and women, while also focusing on innovative and exciting sports for Japan and the wider international community.
These sports will add 18 events and 474 athletes to the Tokyo 2020 program, and will not take places away from athletes in existing Olympic sports. Tokyo will now total 33 sports and nearly 11,000 athletes.
In four Olympic Games appearances, the USA Softball Women’s National Team claimed three gold medals (1996, 2000, 2004) and one runner-up finish to Japan in 2008, while setting numerous international records and are one of only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three consecutive gold medals.
The Tokyo Games will be held July 24-Aug. 9, 2020.
— Some information from IOC and ASA/USA Softball