Having returned to the International Softball Federation’s (ISF) world headquarters in Plant City, Fla., from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Singapore, ISF President Don Porter issued the following statement on women’s softball being dropped from the program of the 2012 Olympic Games.
“Obviously, there is a lot of disappointment. What sport wouldn’t be? However, we’re by no means going to give up, and have already started looking at this situation as far as the statements that have been made in terms of softball’s perceived weaknesses,” Porter said. “We’re going to continue developing our sport as we have been since the November 2002 IOC Session in Mexico City and, really, before that.”
The ISF President went on to say that, “We are going to move ahead with all of the major events we have scheduled, such as the various Cups that are taking place this month (in the U.S., Spain, and Japan) and later in the year (at the ISF facility), as well as the (women’s) world championship next year in Beijing and the multi-sport games where softball is going to be played. We’ll re-assess our development projects as to what we need to be doing to increase our global presence, although it’s going to be a challenge to outdo what we’ve already accomplished equipment-wise alone, having sent equipment valued at over $900,000 to over 60 countries over the last three years.”
The multi-sport games that will continue to include softball on the program include: World Masters Games next week in Canada, South Pacific Mini-Games in Palau later this month, Bolivarian Games in August in Colombia, Southeast Asian Games in Manila in November, Central American Games in December in Guatemala, World Firefighters Games next February in Hong Kong, South American Games next May in Bolivia, Central American & Caribbean Sports Games in July 2006, and the Asian Games in Qatar in December 2006. That list is just those scheduled for the next year-and-a-half alone.
Mr. Porter pointed to that list, as well as the ISF’s current membership of 126 countries, as examples of the sport’s global footprint. He also noted that with regards to the talk that venue costs could have factored in the decision to eliminate softball from the Olympics, the sport’s “venue costs are not excessive – 1996 alone was an already-existing stadium – and each facility that hosted the Olympic Softball competitions are continuing to be utilized.”
In 2004 alone, the venue in Georgia from the 1996 Games was used for softball a total of 128 dates. Blacktown Olympic Park in Sydney, which hosted the softball competition at the 2000 Summer Olympics, hosted 120 softball events in 2003, plus 469 training days/minor events, which included elite & club training, and schools & community competitions. (NOTE: 469 is possible in one year because some of those were two different activities in one day.). And, as for the venue used last year in Athens, the ISF already held a meeting earlier this year with the Greek Sports Minister, discussing the retention of the Olympic Softball Stadium. Preserving the venue would allow the Hellenic Amateur Softball Federation (HASF) to organize and host future major softball events. The ISF would provide support for maintaining the facility and help in bringing major international softball events there, such as world cups and European Championships.
The discussions also included the use of the venue for a European Regional Softball Training Center and new offices for the HASF. Greek national team head coach Linda Wells had hoped to train her team in the venue this year.
Porter said that softball has a strong foundation from which to continue building. He pointed specifically to such high marks as the IOC Programme Commission’s Report to last week’s IOC Session showing only six international federations (IFs) having a lower cost-per-day of competition for television production than the ISF; softball being one of only four IFs that reported zero tests which resulted in Anti-Doping Rule violations; the obvious interest shown in softball by the ISF having the sixth highest average daily number of visits to their Web site in 2003; and TV data from Athens showing softball's appeal worldwide in that France, India, and Mexico, for example, were countries which did not have a team playing in the Olympic Softball competition, yet still registered "peak audiences" in the millions.
The ISF President said, "The data in support of women's softball was all there (in the Programme Commission's Report) for the voting Members to see. Obviously they decided to vote it out anyway, even though that goes against the IOC's stated desire for promoting women in sport."