Baseball coming back in 2020?

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The return of America’s pastime to the Olympics may be more imminent than we dreamed possible.

The International Baseball Federation and the International Softball Federation signed an agreement Monday, according to the AP, and are moving forward on a merger to strengthen its’ bids and be reinstated for the 2020 Games, which will take place in either Madrid, Istanbul, or Tokyo.

The merger still has to be approved by the governing bodies of both sports, but members are preparing a presentation for a December meeting with the IOC’s Olympic program commission. They’ll be going up against squash, karate, roller sports, wushu, wakeboarding, and sport climbing in a vote next September.

The presentation will apparently include some significant changes to the tournament, including shortening it to six days and making pro players available for the semifinals and finals. That change would obviously cause a slight hiatus in the MLB season, since the Olympics usually take place in July and August just as playoff races are just starting to heat up.

We’re not sure if MLB commissioner Bud Selig and the owners would agree to the short break, but we’re guessing it would be a pretty hard and fast (and awkward) “no.”

The two sports were bumped from the Olympic schedule back in 2005 and were last contested in Beijing, with South Korea winning the men’s gold and Japan taking the title for the women. Both sports lost out on reinstatement for Rio, when golf and rugby sevens were added instead.

USOC expects to discuss possible Winter Olympic bid

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PARK CITY, Utah — USOC leaders are expected to discuss a possible Winter Olympic bid as early as next month.

The U.S. could bid for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympics. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said it would be more difficult to bid for 2026 with the 2028 Summer Games set for Los Angeles.

Salt Lake City, Denver, Reno-Tahoe and other cities have expressed interest in bidding, Blackmun said Monday.

The USOC executive board meets Oct. 13. USOC chairman Larry Probst said they “need to talk about” a possible Winter Olympic bid and whether it could be for 2026 or 2030 or later down the line.

The USOC has focused on Summer Olympic bids since 2003. It was officially awarded the 2028 Olympics 12 days ago.

Blackmun added Monday that he hopes multiple U.S. cities could participate in the IOC’s invitational phase for possible bids over the next year. That phase is for cities to receive feedback before formally deciding to put forward a bid.

IOC members are expected to vote in 2019 to determine the 2026 Winter Olympic host.

Sion, Switzerland, is the only city to confirm bid plans.

Probst, an IOC member, also expects Innsbruck, Austria, to bid to become the first city to host the Winter Olympics three times. A public vote for a possible Innsbruck bid to move forward is scheduled for Oct. 15.

Calgary and Stockholm could also bid.

I think [IOC president] Thomas Bach has publicly stated that he would like to see the Winter Games return to a more traditional location,” Probst said. “So, to me, that’s code for Europe or North America. … We’ll have to monitor that, see what the situation looks like and then develop our strategy for whether we’re going to bid for the next Winter Games or longer than that.”

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MORE: Austria looks into multi-country 2026 Winter Olympic bid

USOC supports athletes expressing themselves after anthem protests

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PARK CITY, Utah — The U.S. Olympic Committee supports American athletes expressing themselves at winter sports events leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics.

Some MLB, NFL and WNBA players kneeled and remained in locker rooms during the national anthem at games over the weekend.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun was asked Monday if the USOC would support American athletes peacefully protesting during the national anthem this fall and winter.

“I think the athletes that you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t,” Blackmun said at a pre-Winter Games media summit. “We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves. The Olympic Games themselves, there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise. And that applies no matter what side of the issue you’re taking, no matter where you’re from. … But we certainly recognize the importance of athletes being able to express themselves.”

Blackmun mentioned Tommie Smith and John Carlos‘ raised-fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The USOC has honored Smith and Carlos. They visited the White House last year with the Rio Olympic team.

“That was a seminal moment not only for the Olympic Movement, but for the U.S. Olympic team,” Blackmun said of the 1968 podium gesture. “Our stance on this has been fairly clear. We certainly recognize the rights of the athletes to express themselves.”

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