Baseball and softball may make return to Olympics in 2020

While the International Olympic Committee prepares for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, they are also looking forward and preparing for the 2020 games set to take place in Tokyo.

It will be the fourth time that Japan has hosted the Olympics. The 2020 Games will be the first time since 1964 that the Summer Games will held in Japan. Those Games also took place in Tokyo.

This alone could help the return of two prominent sports into the Games.

News broke this past week that the IOC executive board unanimously voted to add baseball and softball as part of their recommended additions to the 2020 Olympics. The baseball/softball duo was one of five sports (along with karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, and surfing) as part of an approved ‘package’.

All recommendations will be presented and put forward to vote by a general assembly on August 4, the day before the Olympics officially get underway.

A report from NESN said the five-sport package is a feature of the Olympic Agenda 2020, a new IOC program that “host cities the option of suggesting new sports and events for inclusion in their edition of the Games.”

IOC vice president John Coates said that given the site location for the 2020 Games, baseball and softball, as well as karate, have a good chance to make an appearance because of the country’s growing following of baseball and their long tradition of karate.

Coates also notes the other three are being presented and have the potential to bring in new waves of followers to the Games.

Baseball became an official medal sport at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona after being just an exhibition sport for years. Softball was officially recognized four years later in 1996 at the Games in Atlanta. Both were removed following the 2008 games.

For the five times baseball was a part of the Olympics, Cuba took home the gold medal in three of the five, while the United States (in ’08) and South Korea each took home one gold. In softball, the U.S.A. won the first three before losing to Japan in the gold medal game in 2008.

The biggest hurdle for the Olympics as far as baseball is concerned is Major League Baseball. The IOC has a few different options. According to a CBSSports report, they are open to devising baseball rosters comprised of minor leaguers that are not considered top-flight prospects for their respective big league clubs. This would allow the MLB regular season to not be interrupted and any chance of revenue being lost.

Having said that, they IOC is still seeking confirmation from MLB on whether or not to allow their players to participate in the Olympics, something that current big leaguers are already voicing their opinions on.

It’ll be very interesting to say the least where this goes. If you’re a baseball/softball fan, you have to like your chances of the sports returning in 2020 given it is in Japan and their inclusion in the game. How they go about creating Team U.S.A. will be a different story for another day.

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