A record crowd of over 30,000 fans watched a softball encounter between United States and Japan at the Tokyo Dome in, it is claimed, a perfect advertisement for why the sport should be added to the Olympic programme at Tokyo 2020.
A joint bid from men’s baseball and women’s softball is one of five new sports set to be added to sport’s biggest stage in four years time subject to approval at next month’s International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Rio de Janeiro.
Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing are also set to be added.
Most of the focus has centered around baseball, given that it is the number one sport in Japan, but the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is also keen to show the popularity of the second discipline.
A crowd of 31,448 fans attended the game, which marked the first time in history that an international, elite softball competition has been held in the Tokyo Dome, normally the home of Nippon Professional Baseball’s side the Yomiuri Giants.
This “reinforces the sport’s rapid growth and its universal appeal”, a WBSC statement claimed.
Japan, the defending Olympic champions after winning gold on softball’s last appearance in Beijing, defeated Athens 2004 winners, the US, 5-1.
Two other games were held at Sendai, marking the first major international softball event in the city since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
A home run derby, which was held before each game, was billed as a “fan-favorite adding to the electric atmosphere and overall fan experience and highlighted the WBSC’s commitment to deliver a sports product that captivates and inspires audiences worldwide”.
“Baseball and softball’s global reach and loyal fan-base, especially among young people and women, combined with its popularity across many of the biggest markets in the sports industry, including Japan, offers a unique opportunity to further spread and elevate the Olympic brand, while connecting it with new audiences and more young people,” WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari added.
“The unprecedented success of this three-game series further highlights baseball and softball’s growing international appeal.”
Tokyo Dome is expected to be a baseball and softball venue during the 2020 Games if confirmation is given.
Japan will also host the flagship Women’s Softball World Championships in 2018, following on from an event later this month in Surrey, Canada.
“It was a privilege to be in attendance at this record-breaking series.,” added WBSC secretary general, Low Beng Choo.
“The passion, enthusiasm and dedication of the softball fans in Tokyo was clear for all to see and I have no doubt Japan is in a position to stage a remarkable WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship in 2018.”
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz