The relatively unnoticed announcement from the International Olympic Committee that baseball and softball would not be allowed as an Olympic sport in the 2012 Olympics is an outrage. Baseball and softball are team sports that are played all over the world. Softball and baseball are the first sports to be cut from the games since polo was cut in 1936. Cuba, Australia, Guatemala, Brazil, Spain, Canada, South Africa and Taiwan all spoke up in favor of allowing the sports to continue on the Olympic level after their, now final, appearance at the 2008 games in Beijing.
Baseball was a demonstration sport at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and 1988 Seoul Games and became a medal sport in 1992 at Barcelona, where Cuba won the gold. The Cubans beat Japan in the 1996 final at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where the 32 games had an average attendance of 28,749.
While the sting for US professional baseball is not very severe, the close association of Women’s Softball to the men’s game probably doomed that sport as well. The concern seemed to be that US professional baseball players would not be participating in the games because they would occur during the middle of the Major League Baseball season. While not too many baseball players dream of an Olympic gold medal, for women softball players Olympic gold was the pinnacle of the sport.
Major league baseball is getting more and more international in its scope and it may be that one day the World Series is a true world series with international competition. The Olympics could have been an important step in this direction but MLB will probably just work towards international competition without the IOCC.
The impact on the women is more severe. Croatian softball player Jelena Cusak said the decision will cut off crucial funding for youth softball programs around the world. “These kids won’t have the Olympic dream any more,” she said. “They won’t understand this decision. We can’t explain it to them. They don’t know the politics.”
Baseball is played all over the world and there are certainly more baseball and softball fans than there are fans of other included sports such as archery, fencing, handball and curling!
Shame on the IOCC. Baseball and softball belong in the Olympics!
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