The International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) voted today to officially include softball and baseball on the Olympic slate for the 2020 Games, set to take place in Tokyo, Japan.
The unanimous vote comes after the sport was removed from the Olympic schedule following the 2008 Games and follows a June vote by the IOC Executive Board that also unanimously recommended the softball/baseball combo for inclusion in 2020.
The softball/baseball joint bid was joined by skateboarding; surfing; karate; and sports climbing as being recommended for inclusion by the Executive Board. An Olympic program commission report released late last week called the quintet of sports “a dynamic and exciting package” and noted that all are popular in the 2020 host country of Japan, as well as elsewhere internationally.
Importantly, the vote is only applicable to the Tokyo Games; future host cities are not bound by the vote, though it may be influential when similar decisions take place for 2024 and beyond. International cities currently in the running to host the 2024 Games include Los Angeles, California, USA; Budapest, Hungary; Paris, France; and Rome, Italy.
The United States took home three straight gold medals from 1996-2004 and took the silver and second place to Japan in 2008. None of the players on the 2008 Team USA roster participated in this year's World Championships in Surrey, Canada and only three are even still active in the National Pro Fastpitch league.
Thirty-one countries and five continents were represented by participant teams in the 2016 World Championships in Surrey, including Australia; Austria; Brazil; Canada; China; Chinese Taipei; Cuba; Czech Republic; Ecuador; France; Great Britain; Greece; Guatemala; India; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Kenya; Mexico; Netherlands; New Zealand; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Puerto Rico; Serbia; Switzerland; Uganda; United States; and Venezuela.
Rosters for the 2020 participating teams will be comprised of fifteen players and, following past history, it is likely that eight nations’ teams will compete for Olympic gold.