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Don Porter, key Olympic softball leader, dies at 90

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Don Porter, the key figure to get softball into the Olympics in 1996 and back onto the Olympic program for the Tokyo Games, died Sunday at age 90.

“The main architect of the internationalization of softball,” World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari said in a press release. “Through his vision, efforts and decades of service, softball became an Olympic sport.

“He will be remembered forever as one of the most influential leaders in the history of the sport of softball, which is now played in over 130 countries around the world.”

Porter was president of the International Softball Federation (ISF) for 26 years, during which the sport was added to the Olympic program for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Baseball and softball were cut from the Olympic program by an IOC members vote in 2005, the first sports axed from the Olympics since polo in 1936.

A total of 105 IOC members were eligible to vote “yay” or “nay” on all Olympic sports. A majority was needed to remain in the Games. Baseball went down 54-50. Softball was 52-52, a single vote from remaining at the Olympics.

Critics said softball wasn’t global enough. Not popular in Europe. That the U.S. dominated (before Japan became the first country other than the U.S. to take gold in 2008).

Porter and softball’s backers experienced further heartbreak when the IOC voted it down again in 2006, 2009 (losing to rugby and golf for the Rio Games) and 2013 (losing to wrestling, which remained on the Olympic program). Beginning in 2013, baseball and softball combined to form the WBSC, with Porter as co-president, to better their chances at Olympic inclusion.

While softball was off the Olympic program, Porter kept a box of 511 letters on his desk. They came from girls all over the world, from America to Zimbabwe, who were heartbroken.

“They touch my heart and constantly remind me of our mission and vision to give every little girl and boy in the world a chance to play our game through your Games,” Porter said in WBSC’s presentation at a 2013 IOC session. “In my judgment, you can’t leave a better personal legacy than giving young people a chance to dream of taking part in the Olympics.”

Softball and other sports received new life for the Tokyo Olympics when the IOC in December 2014 approved Agenda 2020, which included a provision that an Olympic host city could propose sports to be added for its specific edition of the Games.

Tokyo organizers submitted baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing in 2015. The IOC approved their inclusion, two days before the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

“Softball would not be returning to next year’s Olympic Games without the life and work of Don Porter,” Fraccari said.

Before leading the ISF, Porter was executive director of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA). In 1962, he launched the first world softball championship for 1965. He began the push for softball’s Olympic inclusion in 1968, ultimately succeeding in a 1991 IOC decision.

Porter served in the Army during the Korean War and was awarded the Korean War Medal in 2001 by the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Korea, according to the Oklahoman.

Softball was originally scheduled as the first sport to be contested at the Tokyo Olympics, its first games two days before the Opening Ceremony and in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. It’s expected to remain as scheduled in July 2021.

“Modern softball history is directly linked with the name of Don Porter, the most important softball leader ever, alongside the inventor and early developer of the game, George Hancock,” WBSC Softball Chairman Tommy Velazquez said.

World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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