Last week Graham Hays over at ESPN W took a look at softball’s possible return to the Olympic stage in 2020. Previously the pinnacle of international play, many young softball athletes’ dreams were dashed when softball was cut from the Olympics after the 2008 games after four appearances in the tournament. Graham notes that after recent “wide-ranging reforms” fastpitch softball looks to have a shot at returning to the most notable form of world competition.
In a vote back in September 2013, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted on whether or not sports like baseball and softball (which are treated as a single sport by the IOC), wrestling, or squash should return to the summer games. Softball didn’t make the initial cut but the more recent reforms mentioned by Hays are starting to paint a brighter picture. Here’s how Hays explains it:
“Softball is not back in the Olympics. Not yet. But the outlook now is a good deal brighter than it was after the sport was first eliminated from the program following the 2008 Olympics and then denied a bid at reinstatement in 2013, losing out to wrestling. Shortly after the latter vote by the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach officially replaced Jacques Rogge as president of the organization. Not unlike the Vatican, another Europe-based institution with a history of opaqueness that recently went through a leadership change, Bach wasted no time establishing a new tone. That culminated in this week’s IOC vote in Monaco to adopt his 40-point “Agenda 2020” reform plan that touches on everything from lowering the cost of Olympic bidding to reforming the program.
The path for both softball and baseball, which now operate under the collective governing umbrella of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, to reclaim a place in the Olympic program for the 2020 Tokyo Games is a byproduct of Bach’s larger reform agenda. Where the Olympics were previously limited to a set number of sports, Bach proposed, and the IOC this week passed, an event-based system that caps only the total number of athletes. The reforms also included a provision for organizing committees to “make a proposal for the inclusion of one or more additional events on the Olympic programme for that edition of the Olympic Games.”
So what does that boil down to? Basically regime change at the highest level of the IOC and a focus on the reasons why softball should return to the Olympics not why it should be excluded.
Allowing for this change is both the focus on committees for each sport and a shift from limiting the number of sports in the Olympics to limiting the number of athletes, which will give more room for team sports like softball to make their way to the world stage.
With organizations like the World Baseball Softball Confederation fighting to bring both sports back to the Olympics, and professional and amateur athletes across the globe lobbying for fastpitch’s return, it’s looking like we could see softball back in five and a half years in Tokyo.
So what are your hopes for seeing softball in the Olympics? Are you setting your own goals based on the sport’s return? Let us know in the comments..