OKLAHOMA CITY – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) met on Sunday in Buenos Aires to determine which sports would make up the 2020 Olympic Programme. With a majority of the votes, wrestling was selected, beating out squash and a combined bid from baseball and softball, to join the 25 core sports already included on the bill for the 2020 Games.
“We’re obviously disappointed to not be selected for the Olympic programme for 2020,” said Amateur Softball Association and USA Softball Executive Director Ron Radigonda. “We feel that our sport resonates globally and deserves to be in the Olympic Games. Softball provides more women around the world an opportunity to participate in sport and those women deserve the right to an Olympic dream. It’s our hope that going forward the IOC will look further into the opportunity to include our sport in the Tokyo Games, where the sport is already extremely popular and competitive.”
Following a recommendation from the IOC Executive Board in December to remove wrestling from the Olympic Programme, the sport was quickly added to a list of seven others, each vying for inclusion in the 2020 Games. The three sports, wrestling, squash and softball/baseball, were shortlisted in May by the IOC executive board from the group of eight sports originally in the running for the one spot. With Sunday’s selection of wrestling to return for 2020, the sport will not miss any Olympic Games despite technically being removed from the programme last year.
Softball spent four “quads” as an Olympic sport debuting in the 1996 Atlanta Games with the final Olympic softball competitions taking place in Beijing in 2008. Softball and baseball were ousted from the 2012 Olympics following a vote from the IOC in 2005 in which softball, needing a simple majority of votes (53), received just 52. The decision to extend the two sport’s exclusion came in 2009 when the IOC’s executive board chose not to include them on a short-list of sports for the 2016 programme opting instead for golf and rugby.
Despite its exclusion from the Olympics for the past five years, international softball has become increasingly competitive. Japan, winners of the 2008 Olympic Gold, took the top spot in the 2012 International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championship with a 2-1, extra-inning decision over the USA. Australia and Canada have remained strong contenders on the international scene and European countries like Great Britain and the Netherlands continue to increase their level of play year-by-year. The sport will no doubt continue to grow both domestically and internationally despite not being selected for the 2020 programme.