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Baseball/Softball Bid Among the Sports Shortlisted for 2020 Olympic Vote in September

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – (written by Duncan Mackay of InsidetheGames) Karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu were cut from the original list of eight by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling Executive Board.

Secret electronic voting by the 15 IOC Executive Board members decided the three sports.

Wrestling was selected in the first round with eight votes and will be the favorite to retain its place on the Olympic programme, despite having originally been recommended by the IOC Executive Board for exclusion after Rio 2016.

The announcement that it was on the shortlisted led to loud cheers from the sport's contingent, led by International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) President Nenad Lalovic (pictured top). 

Getting on the shortlist represented a remarkable turnaround for baseball-softball, who got no votes in the opening round but were selected on the shortlist in vote two of round five, following a run-off with karate, scoring nine votes to its rival's five.

Squash was selected in vote three of round three with eight votes, beating wushu and sport climbing, who polled four and two.

"The Executive Board received excellent presentations today from eight International Federations," IOC President Jacques Rogge said.

"It was never going to be an easy decision but I feel my colleagues on the Board made a good decision in selecting baseball-softball, squash and wrestling to be put forward in Buenos Aires.

"I wish the three shortlisted sports the best of luck in the run-up to the vote in September and would like to thank the other sports for their hard work and dedication."

A final decision on which sport will be awarded the one spot available is due to be taken by the IOC's full membership at Buenos Aires on September 10.

"This is a good mixture between team sports, individual sports and martial arts," Thomas Bach, the IOC vice-president, told insidethegames.

"Wrestling presented with its changes on the sporting rules as well as on the good governance side convincingly.

"The high number of voting rounds showed that the EB did not take it lightly.

"The other sports had good and interesting offers."

Baseball and softball were eliminated from the Olympic programme after Beijing 2008 but have since joined forces to launch the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) in an effort to regain their places.

"A lot of young athletes had dreams, and a lot of them lost their dreams in 2005 [when baseball and softball lost their place in Olympic sports programme]," said Porter, co-President of the WBSC.

"Now all of us are committed to try and bring those dreams back to all those young athletes and all of us here.

"We want to work towards that, that's what we did here and we want to do the same thing in Buenos Aires, and hopefully their dreams are going to be back."

Squash narrowly failed to make the programme for London 2012 and Rio 2016, when golf and rugby sevens were selected.

"It's fantastic and I'm extremely thankful to the President and the Executive Board Board for having chosen squash on the shortlist and we will justify the confidence they have put in us as a sport," N Ramachandran, President of the World Squash Federation (WSF) said. 

"This is stage one and we have crossed the first hurdle, and we have to look at how to cross the second one.

"As far as I'm concerned, all three sports start on a level playing field now. 

"Whether you like it or not, you have to step up your campaign one notch, which is exactly what we are going to do and as far as we're concerned, we've made the shortlist and the next step is to cross the final hurdle in Buenos Aires."

There will inevitably be criticism of the IOC process from the five sports who did not make it.

"They knew the rules and decided to try," said Franco Carraro, the Italian who is chairman of the Olympic Programme Commission.

"We are happy for the three [selected] but unhappy for the other five [cut].

"We understand they are not happy but as IOC Programme Commission we are grateful to all eight sports for the collaboration they have given to us.

"I hope the five not chosen today found it a useful experience for them and their athletes."