Reporting from Rio de Janiero – Japan’s beloved sport of baseball is set to return to the Olympics when Tokyo hosts the Games in 2020. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Wednesday voted to approve Tokyo’s 2020 recommendation that baseball, along with softball, climbing, surfing, skateboarding and karate be added to the Olympic program.
The election win was expected after the IOC Executive Board last month approved the package of five sports.
New Olympic organizing committee rules introduced through Olympic Agenda 2020 in 2014 allow host cities to propose locally enjoyed sports that meet IOC criteria to be included at their Games. The IOC must approve the sports by an all-members vote.
Wednesday’s approval only applies to the 2020 Games. Future Summer Games host cities beginning with 2024 will be able to propose their own selection of sports – Budapest, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome are currently in the running for those Games.
The package will boost the number of athletes at the Games by 474 and gold medals by 18, with the number of teams in each sport equal between men and women.
Baseball and softball were last staged at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and have since sought re-inclusion.
The IOC said last month that discussions are still underway with Major League Baseball to determine whether players from that North American professional league will be allowed to play in the tournament which would cause disruptions with the regularly scheduled season play.
Surfing, also popular in the island nation, is seen as an exciting new youthful sport that can add a new edge to the Games.
World Baseball and Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari said following the vote, “today’s historic decision by the IOC is a ‘home run’ for the Olympics,our sport and the Tokyo 2020 Games. Nations competing for the Olympic gold medal in baseball and softball, in Japan, will best showcase the nature and spirit of our global sport – and it will be the most covered and most exciting international baseball/softball tournaments in history, which will help build our case to be featured in future Olympic Games as well”.
ISA President Fernando Aguerre said “after decades of hard work and dedication we are absolutely thrilled that Surfing will officially join the Olympic Sports Programme at Tokyo 2020.”
“This is a game-changing moment for Surfing. We are already seeing increased popularity of the sport across the world and the Olympic Games will provide an incredible platform to further showcase Surfing and its core values. With its unique and modern blend of sport performance, style and youth culture, Surfing will help deliver something special to the Games.
“We are especially stoked for the athletes who now have their own dream to shoot for – to compete for their countries on the greatest sporting stage. We can’t wait to see the world’s best going head to head on the waves in Tokyo and millions of Surfing fans revelling in the competition and the fantastic festival atmosphere of the beach party.
IOC President Thomas Bach said, “We want to take sport to the youth.”
“With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them.
“Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfils all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it. Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
The Tokyo Games will now feature 33 sports and about 11,000 athletes, compared to the typical 26 sports and 10,500 athletes.