Japanese Decision Looms As Eight Sports Vie For Place At Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Japanese baseball Legend Sadaharu Oh presents for Baseball to be added to Tokyo 2020 sport programme (Tokyo2020/Twitter Photo)
Japanese baseball Legend Sadaharu Oh presents for Baseball to be added to Tokyo 2020 sport programme (Tokyo2020/Twitter Photo)

Eight Olympic-recognized sports made their cases for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Friday as they made presentations to the organizing committee.

Baseball and Softball, Bowling, Karate, Roller Sports, Sport Climbing, Squash, Surfing and Wushu were included on the short list of cities to present.

The bid by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) is considered a favourite as the sports are wildly popular across host country Japan.  Both sports were dropped from the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games primarily because it was determined they lack universality.  After trying separate bids and failing to be reinstated, the confederation was formed.

What sports do you want to see added to Tokyo 2020 program (pick 2)?

  • Squash (29%)
  • Baseball / Softball (24%)
  • Karate (13%)
  • Roller Sports (9%)
  • Surfing (9%)
  • Bowling (7%)
  • Climbing (6%)
  • Wushu (4%)

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Japan’s baseball legend Sadaharu Oh was part of the baseball delegation.  While Major League Baseball has never suspended a season to allow its players to participate in the Olympics, Japan’s professional baseball league has said that it will send its best players to compete in the Games and pledged full support.

Squash is another strong competitor that has been working over the past several years to be added to the Olympic program.  Leveraging its small footprint and portable venue concept, the sport claims to be a low cost and innovative addition to the Games.

World Squash Federation (WSF) President N Ramachandran said “we were delighted to have a further opportunity to show the exciting journey of change and innovation that squash has been on, also to explain how we would be a low-cost addition with small athlete numbers.”

International Surfing Association (ISA) President Fernando Aguerre said “through today’s presentation, we highlighted the universality of Surfing and its great appeal amongst young people.”

“‎Of the 35 million surfers in the world, we estimate 14 million are aged 12 to 24, a significant youth market for Tokyo 2020 and the Olympic Movement to engage with.

“Surfing’s blend of sport performance, fashionable style and dynamic energy can now help attract even greater and younger audiences to the Games as well as stimulate further interest from international broadcasters and commercial partners.”

President of the Roller Sports federation Sabatino Aracu said “we presented a complete project that in 5 years will lead Roller Sports to be an even more important sport in Japan and we are sure we can create a consistent legacy both before and after the Games.”

Roller sports is seen as an opportunity to engage more youth in the Games.

“We know that we have all it takes to contribute and make the Olympics more spectacular and appealing.”

World Karate Federation demonstrates its sport while presenting for Tokyo 2020 inclusion (Tokyo2020/Twitter Photo)
World Karate Federation demonstrates its sport while presenting for Tokyo 2020 inclusion (Tokyo2020/Twitter Photo)

Karate, a sport that has Japanese origins, integrated a live demonstration into its presentation.

By an opportunity made available when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved Agenda 2020 reforms last year host cities may now add one or more sports to their programs that may be of special local interest.  However, these sports must be approved by an IOC members vote.

Through a process set out by Tokyo 2020 earlier this year, 26 of the 35 recognized international federations submitted applications to be included on the programme before the organizing committee created a short list.  Friday’s presentations were critical for forming Tokyo’s final recommendations to the IOC September 30, and the IOC will vote on the approval of any recommended sports in August next year at a session ahead of the Rio Games.

There will be further question and answer sessions held with the sports on Saturday.

Results from an unscientific poll Friday showed overwhelming support for baseball and softball from readers at 48 per cent with Karate and Squash tied in second place.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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