International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach is all in favor of bringing back men’s baseball and women’s softball as part of his 2020 Olympic agenda. He’s just not ready to say so, quite yet.
Asked whether he wants to see the return of the sports, which were both dropped from the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Olympics under his predecessor Jacques Rogge but have launched a joint bid under one confederation, Bach was cagey but clearly on board for the shake-up.
Baseball and softball were left off the program at the 2012 London Games and will not be contested at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“It is too early now, we have to discuss the procedures of the program first, how we can make the composition of the program more flexible, and aftderwards we can discuss about individual sports and disciplines, Bach told reporters Saturday after making a speech at the Olympic Council of Asia’s general assembly in Incheon.
“First, we have to win the vote in December (in Monte Carlo),”
Asked if he himself is in favor of their reinstatement for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Bach quipped, “I think I just answered this.”
The IOC voted on wrestling’s reinstatement for 2020 Olympics last September at the general assembly in Buenos Aires after the sport was axed from the program seven months earlier in what many IOC members believed to be an epic mistake.
The baseball-softball bid was also part of the vote for reinstatement and, in fact, had been lobbying for a return much longer. But the sports’ joint bid didn’t stand a chance against wrestling, which has been the bread-and-butter of the movement since the ancient Olympics in Greece.
One of the main proponents of wrestling’s reinstatement was Olympic Council of Asia president Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the influential Kuwaiti sheik, who also heads the Association of National Olympic Committees.
Al-Sabah is widely believed to be the “kingmaker” behind Bach’s successful election to IOC president last September; he also appears ready to support Bach in his every move for his 2020 Olympic Agenda.
“We are in the best environment to discuss these issues,” said Al-Sabah at the OCA general assembly, referring to the reforms Bach would like to institute.
“We are in the best environment to discuss these issues,” said Al-Sabah during comments at the OCA general assembly, referring to the reforms Bach would like to institute, particularly pertaining to the flexibility of the Olympic program.
Still, the whole process has sparked controversy.
The original intent of dropping wrestling was to introduce a new sport to the program and a return by baseball-softball would mean obscure sports such as squash, karate, wakeboarding, sport climbing or roller sports will have even less of a chance.
But it is not only about Tokyo 2020. Bach, who also attended the opening ceremony the previous night at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, is throwing his weight behind the Olympic movement throughout Asia.
“Asia is playing a very important role in sport and its importance is even growing,” he told reporters. “We finalized the Youth Olympic Games in Nanking a couple of days ago; now we are here for this great Asian Games; then 2018 there will be the (Pyoengchang) Olympic Winter Games in Asia; then in 2020 the Games of the Olympiad Tokyo in Asia; and in ’22 we have two very strong candidates coming. You see that Asia is really a top priority for the IOC.”
Japan’s women won the gold medal when it beat the United States in final edition of softball in Beijing.
Since Nippon Professional Baseball players began playing at the 2000 Sydney Games, Japan has won just one bronze medal in baseball (in 2004). Japan has a total of two bronzes and one silver from five official Olympic tournaments.