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IOC Vote On Softball May Be Tabled

The fate of Olympic softball may be put on hold, thanks to the Olympic Charter.

Under Rule 52, Section 1.1.4, "sports are admitted to the programme of the Olympic Games at least seven years before the specific Olympic Games in respect of which no change shall thereafter be permitted."

Although the rule addresses only the addition of sports, many believe that it would also pertain to the cutting of sports, and this has the International Olympic Committee (IOC) searching for legal opinions as it prepares for its meeting at the end of the month in Mexico City. If the experts interpret the rule as such, the IOC would then consider the following options before their meeting:
* Have the November 29 vote on cutting softball, baseball and modern pentathlon, but make the results effective in 2012.
* Defer action on the 2012 program until 2005 to allow further study.

Meanwhile, International Softball Federation President Don Porter is packing his bags for Mexico City and proceeding as if the vote would be taken.

"IOC President (Jacque) Rogge has decided to let the sports federations make 10-minute presentations on why they should not be not be eliminated from the Olympic program," Porter said. "We plan to present facts and figures to refute the findings of the IOC Program Commission, and we have asked Croatian athlete Jelena Tomic to assist us in the presentation. We hope that she will show the universality of the sport, which is one of the criticisms leveled against softball."

Other myths that Porter hopes to allay are that softball has low media interest and the venue costs are obsessive.

"We have refuted all these issues, and have been in contact with as many IOC members as we can to correct these perceptions," Porter said.

In a report written to the IOC, the ISF noted that:
* There are 124 affiliated national associations.
* In 1996, softball’s television ratings ranked fifth in women’s sports, and in 2000, fourth.
* Venues have been less costly than other sports and then are of recreational use after the Games.

Porter also plans to stress that:
* Softball is a women's sport, and increasing opportunities for women in sport has been an important purpose of the IOC.
* Olympic softball has never had a positive drug test.
* Softball's percentage of tickets sold -- 83.7 percent -- ranked 10th out of the 28 Olympic sports in the 2000 Olympic Games.

Although the ISF will be prepared to defend softball's position, Porter hopes the IOC will delay the vote in favor of further study.

"It was unsettling to many of us who are heads of international federations not to be consulted. I'm in agreement that the IOC does need to look at the size and scope of the program, but it should regroup and then come up with a better process of reviewing changes."

Last week, Porter attended the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) meeting in Colorado Springs, and many delegates were concerned with the way the IOC program commission had recommended the cuts.

"The ASOIF has developed recommendations for an IOC policy change regarding how sports are added or dropped from the Olympic program. Currently the process is flawed, and we hope the IOC will consider this resolution," Porter said. The ASOIF president will present the recommendations to the IOC Executive Board in Mexico City.

What you may not know is that if softball is dropped from the Olympic program, it may be eliminated from the Pan American Games as well.

That's what men's fastpitch is facing right now for the 2007 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. When Santo Domingo bid for the event, it stated that it would include Olympic sports only. That means that Pan Am-only sports water skiing, squash, bowling, racquetball, karate and roller sports, in addition to men's fastpitch, are not on the program.

"The fight is on for 2007," said Ron Radigonda, ASA executive director. "I personally think this is a positioning situation by the host to get some funding from these other sports to assist in funding the competition."

Radigonda believes that men's fastpitch will be on the 2007 program, but it will take some convincing in the meantime. Both men's and women's fastpitch are on the 2003 Pan Am Games program in Brazil.

Other International News

The following teams have qualified for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece: United States, Japan, China, Chinese Taipei and Greece (host country).

Greece will host a softball test event in early October 2003, inviting eight teams. The U.S. will be one of the invited teams.

The ASA will conduct an open tryout system for the Junior World Team next summer, holding tryouts at eight sites throughout the country. The top athletes will be invited to a select camp to be held after the ASA 18U Gold Championship in Salem, Oregon, next August.