Baseball/Softball reinstated for Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Wed 3 Aug 2016

British Baseball and Softball is elated with the announcement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (OCOG) to reinstate baseball/softball back on to the Olympic programme, following the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro.

The decision follows a decade long campaign by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) to overturn the decision in 2005 to remove baseball and softball following the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. That decision brought the two sports together with the formation of the WBSC and at Tokyo 2020 they will be presented as the predominantly male (baseball) and exclusively female (softball) versions of one sport.

“We are thrilled with the IOC’s decision, which we think our sports have earned given the levels of participation and calibre of play around the world, particularly in Japan” said the British Baseball Federation’s National Teams Programme Official, Liam Carroll. “I’m excited that current and future players can aspire to represent our country in the Olympics, which fits within Great Britain Baseball’s mission to Inspire, Develop and Perform. With this milestone now past, our vision of competing in the 2020 games comes clearly into view. I’d also like to thank WBSC for their hard work in making this a reality, and to congratulate GB Softball, whom we wish all the best in their qualification efforts.”

“The return of softball to the 2020 Olympics will give thousands of women world-wide something to work hard towards” stated GB Women’s Fastpitch National Team Head Coach, Rachael Watkeys. “That alone will improve the professionalism, standard and participation in our game. In addition, greater exposure will inspire many more girls and women to take up the sport at a grassroots level, building our game and developing a talent pool for many years to come. Obviously we would love some funding to help our elite programme to train and play together more frequently but we see that as something that will come when it hopefully gains permanent inclusion in the game post 2020.”

“Being included in the Tokyo 2020 games will mean a great deal for the development of baseball and softball in the UK” said Joint CEO and Head of Development of BaseballSoftballUK, John Boyd. “We will see over the next fortnight how Olympic fever grips the world and having our sports profiled on the biggest sporting stage will greatly help with the promotion of the sports in this country. There is a reason why the first question people often ask is ‘are you an Olympic sport?’. Being a part of the greatest sporting contest on earth defines so much about how our sports are viewed. It will help us to build stronger and more meaningful partnerships with private and public investors. The sports being back in the Tokyo Olympics will showcase our beautiful games played in the country where they are most popular. Seeing baseball played in front of an insanely passionate crowd of 55,000 fans in the Tokyo Dome (if it is used) will be one of the highlights of Tokyo 2020. These same passionate fans will pack out the softball venues, demonstrating a fan engagement not yet seen in international women’s sport. The attention this will draw worldwide will mean a great deal of media interest in the UK, which will in turn help our efforts for people to realise our sports are played here and that we are a fast growing UK sport.”

The GB Women’s Fastpitch National Team reached the Championship Round at the 2016 WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship in Surrey, Canada held in July, where a record 31 countries took part.

The GB Senior National Baseball Team will be participating in the 2016 European Championships in Hoofddorp, Netherlands from 09-18 September before travelling to Brooklyn, NY for the World Baseball Classic Qualifier from 22-25 September.

This decision further highlights baseball/softball’s growing global appeal, particularly among young people and women, with 65 million participants from over 140 countries now playing.

For Japan, baseball/softball has been a part of the cultural and sporting landscape for more than 70 years and the WBSC Premier 12 Baseball World Cup held last November was Japan’s most-watched international sports event of the year, generating over 2 billion social media impressions.

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