It is an honour for our global sport – and a great day for our millions of male and female athletes, and fans around the world – to be represented within this new and innovative youth-focused sports package. On behalf of our sport, we thank IOC President Thomas Bach for his Olympic Agenda 2020 vision, which has sparked this exciting new process and evolution, and the entire IOC Executive Board for today’s recommendation. The WBSC also reconfirms our deepest gratitude to the Tokyo 2020 leadership for
placing its trust in our sport.
Baseball and softball’s global reach, loyal fan-base and prominent position in many of the biggest markets in the sports industry, including Japan, offer a unique opportunity to spread and elevate the Olympic brand further while connecting with new audiences and more young people.
For WBSC, today’s IOC Executive Board recommendation helps to highlight the global appeal and popularity of baseball and softball, particularly among young people and women. Over the last decade, and with the merger of baseball and softball that established the WBSC in 2013, we have developed into a gender-balanced global sport, which represents 65 million athletes from 213 National Federation and Associate Members in over 140 countries.
Baseball and softball at the National Team level has never been as popular as it is today – among fans, broadcasters, partners and the players themselves. In Japan, baseball and softball have remained number one sports and a central part of the culture for more than 70 years.
The WBSC Premier12 Baseball World Cup last November was Japan’s most-watched
international sports event broadcast in 2015. The WBSC Premier12 also generated the highest volume of online media buzz among young digital users in Japan, with over 2 billion social media impressions, surpassing all other major sports events in 2015.
Baseball and softball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would be the most electrifying
international competition our sport has ever seen and the synergy would help shine a bigger spotlight on the Olympic Games – the centre of the sporting universe. Growing baseball and softball into a global product over the last years – launching our U-12 to Professional Baseball World Cups – has been a key component of our strategy and business model of being an attractive addition to the Olympic Games.
Our sports offer a safe, accessible route for young people – and girls in particular – to play and stay in sport. We estimate that over 90% of our 65 million athletes are under-23, and we have sophisticated grassroots structures in place: the WBSC World Championships now begin at U-12 National Team level. We are excited by the potential to promote even greater youth participation and even greater gender equality within the Olympic Movement if our sport earns a place on the Olympic Programme.
Today’s decision by the IOC Executive Board marks another step toward the historic return of Olympic baseball and softball, and now the entire baseball and softball world eagerly awaits the vote of the IOC Session in Rio in August.
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.