Mon, September 23, 2013

Baseball, softball to merge for 2020 Olympics

By Karolos Grohmann, REUTERS


A sign stands at a deserted field showing where the stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games baseball competition once stood in central Beijing March 30, 2012. (David Gray/REUTERS)

LONDON, ENGLAND - The governing bodies of baseball and softball are to merge in a bid to regain their Olympic status at the 2020 Games, their heads told Reuters on Sunday.

The new federation will provisionally be called the International Baseball and Softball Federation.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) dropped the two sports from the Games program in a 2005 vote, making them the first sports to be axed in almost 70 years.

Baseball and softball last appeared in at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

“We feel if we can work together it might be much more possible to regain Olympic status,” International Softball Federation President Don Porter told Reuters. “Both our sports are trying to find things that will improve them. Become more attractive and interesting.”

Baseball and softball are competing with karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard and the martial art of wushu for a spot in the 2020 Games.

A final list will be put to a vote at the IOC session in September next year for a single berth.

“We are up against six other sports and like any game of sport, this will be a tough one,” said Porter.

The IOC is eager to keep reshaping the Olympic program and brought in rugby and golf for the 2016 Olympics in a bid to boost audiences and attract sponsors from those sports.

Baseball’s president, Italian Riccardo Fraccari, said they had learned from their Olympic rejection and had worked to meet the criteria for universality and anti-doping.

“We decided to join into one federation,” he told Reuters. “There has been unanimity in this. At our congress in Dallas there was unanimity.

”All professional groups are participating in this. The decision by the IOC to take us off the Olympic Program obviously disappointed us but we learned a lot. We looked into the reasons why and we addressed them.“