TOKYO – Baseball and softball remain on course to get back into the Olympics. Squash, karate, surfing and four other sports are in contention to get into the games for the first time.
Japanese organizers on Monday chose eight sports from a list of 26 that had applied for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The other sports making the cut were bowling, roller sports, sport climbing and wushu.
The combined bid of men’s baseball and women’s softball – sports dropped after the 2008 Beijing Games – was considered a favourite because of their popularity in Japan.
“This is a great day for our sport,” said Riccardo Fraccari, president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation. “Today baseball and softball – and the millions of athletes and fans who call it their sport – reached first base.”
The federations of the eight sports will next make presentations in Tokyo on Aug. 7-8, and organizers will make recommendations to the International Olympic Committee by Sept. 30.
The IOC will make a final decision on which sport or sports will be added in August 2016, when it meets ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The sports which applied but failed to make the cut were: air sports, American football, bowls, bridge, chess, dance sport, floorball, flying disc, korfball, netball, orienteering, polo, racquetball, sumo, tug of war, underwater sports, waterski and wakeboard.
Under the “Olympic Agenda 2020” reforms approved in December, the IOC agreed to abolish the cap of 28 sports for the Summer Games and move to an “events-based” system that would allow new competitions to come in, while keeping to about 10,500 athletes and 310 medal events. Host cities are allowed to propose the inclusion of one or more additional events for their games.
Baseball and softball have failed in several bids for reinstatement. They would be a huge draw in Japan, even without the participation of players from Major League Baseball, which has said it won’t alter its schedule to accommodate the Olympics.
Japan sent many of its top professional baseball players to Beijing.
Organizers were eager to pick sports that have an appeal with youth and wouldn’t require the building of new facilities. Tokyo organizers have been looking for ways to reduce costs.
All of the sports making the short list have applied for Olympic inclusion in the past, some multiple times. In 2013, squash and baseball-softball lost out to wrestling in the most recent IOC vote for inclusion on the Tokyo program.
Fujio Mitarai, who chaired the selection panel, said two factors were key in selecting events such as surfing and roller sports, which will include skateboarding.
“The most important factors were: Does the sport have the support of the younger generation and how big is the population of the sport worldwide?” Mitarai said.