“Softball at the Olympics would be good for girls everywhere and good for society”
Jennie Finch, 2004 and 2008 US Olympic softball champion
Jennie Finch, one of the legends of Olympic softball, has called on women everywhere to show their support for softball to be played at the Olympic Games ahead of next week’s decision by the International Olympic Committee Executive Board (IOC EB) in St Petersburg, Russia.
In September of this year, the International Olympic Committee will elect the host city for 2020 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, choosing among Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid.
Softball was eliminated for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games in a controversial move initiated by European sports officials. The vote to keep softball required a simple majority of the 105 eligible voters, but the vote ended up as 52-52 with one abstention. It was officially decided in August 2009 at IOC Board meeting in Berlin. Softball, therefore, became only the second sport in 69 years to be voted out of the Olympics (polo was the first, in 1936).
In its brief (1996-2008) Olympic history, many milestones were reached. The first solo no-hitter to be pitched at the Olympics was from American pitcher Lori Harrigan in a game against Canada at the 2000 Summer Olympics. The United States won three golds in four Olympics, and had a 22-game winning streak at the Olympics between 2000 and 2008, only ending their streak in the gold medal match against Japan.
The Olympics also made stars of young role models like Finch and Dr. Dot Richardson, Cat Osterman, Jessica Mendoza, Victoria Galindo, and Monica Abbott. The popularity of the sport led to the formation of the professional National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) softball league.
The St. Petersburg meeting, is therefore, pivotal to the future of softball. The IOC EB will narrow down the list of sports for possible Olympic inclusion at the 2020 Olympic Games. It will be up to the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), created out of the International Softball Federation and International Baseball Federation, to 'pitch'' a perfect game to the IOC EB on the value of including baseball and softball in the Olympic Games.
Finch said that getting more girls into sport would help to empower young women and would be good for society, especially in difficult financial times.
“I’ve personally seen how softball has grown globally," she said, "and its impact on the lives of millions of young girls worldwide.”
At a time when it is increasingly recognized that a successful global economy is dependent on educating, empowering and including girls and women, it is crucial for the future of the many young women.
Played in at least 140 countries at some level, WBSC co-President Don Porter said,“Baseball and softball are easily introduced and practiced by youth anywhere. It is the WBSC’s vision to work with the IOC to give every boy and girl an opportunity to take part in sport and put baseball and softball at the service of the Olympic Movement to provide the youth a gateway to excellence, fitness, overcoming challenges and being empowered,” Porter underlined.
“The historic merger with baseball, a process that took over two years to carefully work out, puts the athletes, universality, inclusiveness and gender equity at the forefront of our bid, " he continued, "And with the support of role models like Jennie, we are optimistic that it is the right time for baseball and softball to be re-introduced to the Olympic Games.
Finch, a sporting icon and role model for young girls, whose former professional team, the NPF Chicago Bandits, named the street outside their Ballpark at Rosemont 27 Jennie Finch Way, praised the work of the Olympic Movement in inspiring more young girls to take up sport, and said the IOC EB would be especially important to the hopes and aspirations of a next generation of young girls to compete at the Olympic Games.
“This vote [by the IOC EB] is incredibly important for girls everywhere. It is vital for young women who are inspired and empowered by softball that the sport be placed in the Olympics, and receives the full support of the IOC.”
Finch’s passion for the IOC EB to support softball’s Olympic inclusion campaign echoed comments made by the Olympic legend at the IOC’s Women in Sport Conference last year in which she urged the IOC to give young girls the chance to "experience the magic" of the participating at Olympic Games and to include softball at the Games.
To get involved with the WBSC, Finch suggests 'liking' their Facebook Page, following them on Twitter, and corresponding with them on their website, http://www.play2020.com
Who wants softball and baseball in the Olympics? Sound off!