As we sit back and watch Olympic competitions in everything from soccer to synchronized swimming, many of us are wondering where’s the baseball? Where’s the softball? They’re both clearly and undeniably sports. There’s clearly an audience for them.
Here’s the lowdown on Olympic baseball. This one will be quick and painless. According to ESPN Olympic Sports, the International Olympic Committee got frustrated and very unhappy about the absence of major league players. The NBA has been sending their best since 1992. The NHL went above and beyond in 1998 and 2002 when they interrupted their season for the Games. We obviously will have to see more MLB enthusiasm about baseball’s re-entry to the Olympic Games and some say that’s not likely to happen.
Let’s talk softball. During the 1940s, Americans and Japanese were making the first overtures to get softball included on the Olympic program. This effort was led by the American Softball Association, the Japanese Olympic Committee as well as the Japanese Softball Association.
In the 1950s, the Amateur Softball Association of America as well as the Australian Softball Council made efforts by sending letters to national organizations asking for assistance in getting the newly created International Olympic Federation to include softball on the Olympic program. New Zealand lended their support as well. Things were looking more hopeful as the sport had become quite popular in over 15 countries at this time.
The International Softball Federation worked consistently towards admittance throughout the ‘60s. They were denied. For Olympic inclusion to be considered, it was required that a sport must have at least 11 countries able to field teams. That would work. There were 15 countries ready to go at that time. The spoiler and/or loophole was the final condition: A sport must have at least 29 national federations affiliated with it. No dice.
After a couple more decades of continuous efforts, the first glimpse of hope surfaced with a shot at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games. But, the IOC nixed it because they felt its inclusion would be an ‘undue burden’ on the organizers. The frustration that had been brewing for many decades at this point was boiling over now because baseball was to be a medal sport at the games as a men’s only event. Ouch…
Any player will tell you that getting hit can only hurt for so long though. Finally! Softball was on the ticket for the 1996 Summer Olympics thanks to the International Olympic Committee on Women and Sports. The committee’s chair, Anita DeFranz, would prove to be instrumental in the introduction of softball to the Olympic program.
Olympic softball competition fielded 8 teams for each of the Games from 1996-2008. Just when the sport was getting some recognition, the IOC put it to a vote whether or not to keep softball in the Games. A majority vote was all that was needed. The final vote ended up 52-52 (with one abstention). All that hard work to get the sport into the Olympics and suddenly it’s on its way out.
The IOC Board met in Berlin in 2009 and decided that it will not be included in the 2016 Rio Games.
ESPN reports that the International Softball and Baseball Federations are both making efforts to revive play of both sports at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The baseball dilemma seems to be in the hands of Major League Baseball. The softball issue? It seems ridiculous for the committee to continuously deny this sport.
Sure, some fans like watching the beautiful girls dancing in the water or with balls on a mat. But, the girls that have been raised to believe that ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’… Now those are the girls a lot of us like to watch compete.