"Including softball in the Olympic Games will help to inspire millions of girls to use the Games and the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence to strive for their best on and off the field. This will be good for girls, and good for society and it will make the Olympic Movement more relevant to women and also help to sustain the Movement."
Jennie Finch, retired Chicago Bandit, two-time Olympic softball medalist
Hope never dies...
While athletes like Lindsey Vonn might be focused on the upcoming 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are thinking summer....this is an important week in the reinstatement of softball and baseball to the 2020 Summer Olympics.
From December 11 to 14, the Executive Board of the Olympic Committee, headed by new IOC President Thomas Bach, will meet to discuss the Olympic Agenda 2020. Ideas developed will be proposed for general debate at the IOC Session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.
Reinstating baseball and softball will be one of those items.
Remember when they were eliminated as Olympic sports after the 2008 games? And then again, in September, when wrestling was chosen as the sport to retain, even after a prolonged fight? Squash was quashed as well.
Thank heaven for the Japanese, and their support for all things baseball and softball. For this reason, baseball and softball still have a chance of being included in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Bach, 59, a former Olympic and world fencing champion from Germany, told Google News the baseball issue would be discussed by the IOC executive board in December, and by the full IOC membership in the Russian resort of Sochi in February.
Bach, who took over for Jacques Rogge in September, says he is open to including the sports at the behest of the host...Tokyo, Japan. Baseball and softball are very popular in Japan and there are many existing facilities in the Tokyo area that could be used if the sports were included.
"This will be under discussion," Bach told the Associated Press in November. "We will have the first broad discussion in December in a meeting of the executive board of the IOC, then the executive board will present its first discussion paper to the IOC session in Sochi."
I spoke with Jennie Finch last summer at the Ballpark at Rosemont, asking her about the impact of eliminating softball from the Olympic stage. Shaking her head, she said, "It's been devastating, not to have that international stage, the television networks, the venues. Softball doesn't have the showcase that baseball does. Once, every four years, little girls got to see where their dreams could take them. They don't have that now. That's why we're fighting hard to get this done"
Baseball and softball were dropped from the 2012 program after a controversial 2005 vote by the IOC. The two sports merged into a single federation in a bid for inclusion in the 2020 games, but lost out to wrestling in an IOC vote in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
But Tokyo's winning bid for the 2020 Olympics has prompted calls in Japan for baseball and softball to be included when the Japanese capital hosts the games. While the Olympic Charter states that a sport's inclusion in the program must be decided not later than the session electing the host city (seven years in advance), Bach stressed the need to be flexible.
"Sport is always about building bridges and never about building walls," Bach said. "The language of sport is the language of dialogue and mutual respect, and this is why I think sport can play a positive role."
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