Tokyo 2020 proposed adding baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing to its Olympic program on Monday.
The International Olympic Committee will make a final decision in August as to which sports will be added for the 2020 Games, if any. The decision is for the sports’ inclusion in the 2020 Olympics only and not for Olympics beyond that.
“This package of events represents both traditional and emerging, youth-focused events, all of which are popular both in Japan and internationally,” Tokyo 2020 said in a press release. “They will serve as a driving force to further promote the Olympic Movement and its values, with a focus on youth appeal, and will add value to the Games by engaging the Japanese population and new audiences worldwide, reflecting the Tokyo 2020 Games vision.”
The five proposed sports (baseball-softball counts as one) make up a total of 18 events (when separating for genders and, for karate, weight classes) and 474 additional athletes.
Tokyo 2020 proposed having six teams each in baseball and softball, which would be two fewer than when the sports were previously in the Olympics in the 1990s and 2000s.
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Those five sports were previously named finalists to be considered to be added for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on June 21. Other finalists not ultimately chosen by organizers were bowling, squash and wushu.
Olympic host cities can propose adding sports for their Games under Agenda 2020 reforms passed by the International Olympic Committee in December.
Agenda 2020 set to limit the Summer Olympics to approximately 10,500 athletes and 310 events (unless otherwise agreed upon with that year’s Olympic Organizing Committee, see Olympic Charter Rule 45, provision 3.2). London 2012 had 10,568 athletes in 302 events; Rio 2016 will have 306 events.
Baseball and softball, part of the Olympics from 1992 (baseball)/1996 (softball) through 2008, have long been thought to be the favorite to be added for Tokyo 2020, if any sports are added.
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) said it’s “the biggest sport not currently featured at the Olympic Games.”
“We’ve reached second base,” World Baseball Softball Confederation president Riccardo Fraccari said, according to The Associated Press. “Now we’ve got to wait until Rio [2016 Olympics in August] to get home.”
“The vast majority of baseball/softball’s estimated 65 million athletes in over 140 countries are between the ages of 5 to 21,” WBSC said in a press release after the announcement.
“Today’s announcement by Tokyo 2020 to include baseball/softball into its proposal for additional events at the 2020 Olympic Games is an exciting step forward to hopefully seeing our game return to this great platform,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in the press release. “We look forward to the IOC’s decision in August 2016.”
Manfred has continued the stance of predecessor Bud Selig that MLB will not interrupt its schedule to allow big-league players to compete in the Olympics, if the sport is re-added.
“We’re in discussions and we have a great relationship with MLB,” Fraccari said, according to the AP. “We have plenty of time to discuss before 2020. The important thing now is this choice and that the IOC confirms it. The rest can wait.”
Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing have never been part of the Olympic program.
In 2014, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk said he’d been involved in discussions and was confident that his sport would be added to the Olympics.
“If you look at the success of snowboarding in the Winter Games and how that’s brought a more youthful edge to the Olympics in general, they don’t have that with the Summer Games,” Hawk told Larry King last year. “They don’t have anything that’s drawing in a younger viewership.”
Squash, along with baseball-softball, lost out on being added for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics when the IOC voted to keep wrestling in the Olympic program on Sept. 8, 2013.
“I don’t believe we could have done more to get our message across to both the Tokyo 2020 Games hosts and the IOC,” World Squash Federation president Narayana Ramachandran said in a statement. “I know I speak on behalf of the millions of squash players around the world for whom the opportunity of seeing their sport participate in the Olympics has been an absolute priority — and, like me, they will be heartbroken.
“However, this is not the end for squash. … We will go from strength to strength while we continue to target participation at a future date in the Games.”
The following sports applied for inclusion in Tokyo 2020 but failed to make the finalist list:
Air sports, bowls, bridge, chess, dance sport, floorball, flying disc, football, korfball, netball, orienteering, polo, racquetball, sumo, tug of war, underwater sports and waterski and wakeboard.
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