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Olympic Softball in Jeopardy for 2008

Softball may be dropped from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, if the International Olympic Committee's Program Commission has its way.

The commission, in a report to the IOC Executive Board, recommended that softball, baseball and modern pentathlon be dropped and replaced by men's and women's golf, seven-man rugby and wasue, a Chinese kick-boxing sport.

"The IOC has been studying the Olympic program for some time, and there are concerns that it's too big ... too many athletes," Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation (ISF), said. Porter and the ISF, the world's governing body of the sport, are credited with getting softball into the Olympic Games, working on the effort for approximately 30 years before it was first included in 1996.

"IOC President Jacque Rogge doesn't want to go over the current number of 10,000 athletes and officials, so when these other sports knock at the door, the only way to include them is to drop existing sports from the program," Porter said.

A decision concerning softball's fate will be made in November at the IOC meeting in Mexico City. If the recommendation is accepted by the executive board, it would go to the IOC Assembly, where a two-thirds vote is required for ratification. Porter and the ISF plan to be ready.

"We're going to call all the people in the international community that we've established as friends of softball and put together the best way to attack the issue," Porter said. "The question is why they are eliminating a women's sport when the big push the last 20 years has been to add more opportunities for women. We're going to need as much public and organizational support that we can get in order to be successful."

Porter was in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the IOC meeting when the commission's report leaked out. Before he left, he received a letter from Rogge that said the main reasons for the recommendation were that softball wasn't popular worldwide and low media ratings from television. Porter plans to refute both issues, especially since softball is played in 125 countries, while the recommended sports are a lot less global.

In a story about the issue, the LA Times reported that former Los Angeles Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, who coached the 2000 Olympic baseball team to a gold medal, was disappointed and shocked to hear baseball and softball are in Olympic jeopardy. "I think it's wrong for them to do that," he said, "because softball and baseball, you saw the crowds at the Olympics and the excitement at the Games. I don't understand what the problem is."

Porter said that he would like the entire softball community to get involved in the effort to save Olympic softball. The NFCA will report on recommended actions as soon as they are available.