The president of the International Softball Federation said softball is the most popular sport in the world not in the Olympic program, but it will be a challenge to get back in for the 2020 Games with wrestling in the picture.
Don Porter spoke with The Associated Press less than two months before the International Olympic Committee will vote to add one sport for the 2020 Olympic Games in Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo and the 2024 Games.
The finalists are a baseball-softball joint bid, squash and wrestling. The IOC decision will come Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires.
Softball completes its World Cup event in Oklahoma City on Sunday. The U.S., which won the Olympic titles in 1996, 2000 and 2004, will face Japan in the championship game. Japan won the 2008 Olympic softball title, the final Games including softball after it was introduced in 1996.
The IOC voted in July 2005 to cut softball from the Olympics beginning in 2012.
“Softball is a worldwide sport,” Porter told the AP. “We have over 50 million boys, girls, men and women playing baseball and softball. We’re the largest sport, combined, that is not on the Olympic program currently.”
But the competition to return to the Olympics is a bit daunting, which Porter acknowledged.
“Wrestling is a great sport,” he said. “It was one of the original Olympic sports. It was unfortunate what happened, but they’ve been given an opportunity to come back, like we have. It probably is going to be more difficult (for softball/baseball) because there is a lot of sympathy for wrestling, for a lot of reasons. Maybe that’s what we’re going to be up against.
“But we hope to be able, in our campaign, to get a message across that we feel is very positive as to what we can add to the Olympic program and hopefully get the vote in September.”