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Paris 2024 faces Olympic decision on baseball, softball

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Baseball and softball are back in the Olympics in 2020, but not beyond that, though Paris 2024 organizers can propose to add the sports for their Games.

Will they?

“I can’t tell you now, and it’s a good question,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said Wednesday. “We will meet and work with the different federations interested in [joining the 2024 Olympic program].”

That likely means many meetings.

Tokyo 2020, the first Olympic host allowed to propose adding sports for its edition of the Games, said 26 international federations responded to its invitation to be considered for inclusion.

Tokyo 2020 trimmed it to eight finalists, then proposed five sports (karate, sport climbing, skateboarding, surfing and baseball/softball as one sport) to the IOC in September 2015. The IOC approved all of them 11 months later.

Baseball and softball return to the Olympics in 2020 for the first time since 2008. But the IOC has not added the sports back into the Olympic program full-time.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation repeated its desire to stay on the Olympic program for 2024 on the same day that the IOC announced Paris would get the 2024 Games and LA the 2028 Games on Sept. 13.

Los Angeles bid officials, who put Dodger Stadium on a 2015 list of potential Olympic venues (but none since), have not announced whether they would propose baseball and softball for 2028.

The Olympic Charter says the Olympic program must be finalized three years before the Games.

“We have now a lot of offers, and many sports want to be a part of the Games,” Estanguet said Wednesday. “I can’t tell you, honestly, because we haven’t decided yet. We have more than two years to propose something to the IOC. We have time.”

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Video games in the Olympics? Here’s how it might work

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ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) The future of the Olympics may just be in a basement in Turkmenistan.

With leading Olympic figures considering a possible role for competitive computer games – known as esports – at the 2024 Games in Paris, a pan-Asian competition in the ex-Soviet state offers a possible vision of the future.

Including esports could give the Olympics a younger audience and a huge revenue boost from a rapidly growing market, but would be deeply controversial.

The Olympic Council of Asia included esports as an official demonstration event at its Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games this week, with teams from China and nine other nations battling in four games ranging from space combat in “StarCraft II” to card-game strategy in “Hearthstone.”

Supporters of esports in the Olympics say their event is a real sporting contest, one which prizes strategy and lightning reactions over physical agility.

“It needs different skillsets from different people,” competitor Jess Joaustine Tamboboy from the Philippines told The Associated Press. “It doesn’t really have a physical requirement because you can see around us the players are short and tall, maybe a little bit thin, maybe a little bit fat. But all they have in order to qualify to play for these types of titles are just their cognitive or mind skills.”

Esports aren’t a natural fit for Turkmenistan, one of the poorer ex-Soviet nations, though one where internet access is growing rapidly.

The rules weren’t explained in the local language, but that didn’t turn off the crowd of up to 200 in the windowless basement of a sports arena from cheering and whooping at a particularly spectacular kill or skillful strategy.

Still, the attendance was tiny compared to big pro esports events, which can pack thousands into traditional sports arenas, and it didn’t make much of a splash online. Fewer than 50 viewers at a time watched some opening-round matches Monday on Twitch, a leading game streaming service that regularly attracts tens of thousands of concurrent viewers to its more popular streams.

If esports make it to the Paris Olympics, it would redefine what Olympic sport is meant to be.

The International Olympic Committee has previously resisted calls to add “mind sports” like chess that don’t involve physical exertion, or events where machines are key, like auto racing.

Deciding which games to pick is fraught, too. The IOC has a sponsorship deal with Chinese company Alibaba, which has major esports interests, but rival firms have their own popular brands.

The IOC also fears violent games would hurt the Olympics’ image.

IOC president Thomas Bach told the South China Morning Post, an Alibaba-owned newspaper, earlier this month that he’d prefer sports simulations.

“We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people. This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line,” he said.

All four of the games on the program this week in Turkmenistan featured some form of combat, though in fantasy settings with cartoon-style animation techniques. There weren’t any realistic military-themed shooting games on the program.

Bach also said esports needs a firmer structure. The IOC is used to dealing with a single governing body for each sport, like FIFA for soccer or the International Gymnastics Federation. Esports has its own international federation, but with limited influence over a web of private interests including games publishers, competition organizers and players’ teams.

The event in Turkmenistan showed how that system doesn’t yet fit smoothly with the Olympic movement.

IOC sponsor Alibaba’s Alisports division was in charge of the event, and used an open online qualifying system. That prompted federations from Australia and South Korea to boycott, saying athletes should have been picked by their national Olympic committees in the manner of a traditional sport.

If esports make it to the Olympics, other potential problems for the IOC include criticism it’s moving away from promoting a healthy lifestyle, and that it’s ignoring poorer countries where fast computers and brand-new games are unaffordable.

Esports would also mean the IOC allowing private companies to set the rules of its competitions.

Most traditional sports treat the rules with reverence, only occasionally tinkering around the edges. Not so for games publishers, who routinely mix things up to attract new players and keep things fresh.

Adding just one new character can reshape the whole “meta” – the game’s constantly evolving web of tactics and counter-tactics.

Senior figures in the IOC and the esports world have publicly doubted esports will be ready for an Olympic debut in seven years’ time.

“We are still some way away from our vision and we need to start on the right foot,” Asian Esports Federation president Kenneth Fok said last week. “For esports to develop in a positive banner, we need the full support of each and every NOC, their government, and more importantly the general public to have a positive perception of electronic sports.”

Ellingworth reported from Moscow.

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It’s official: LA gets 2028 Olympics, Paris gets 2024

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By a show of hands, the IOC confirmed that Paris will host the 2024 Olympics, and Los Angeles will get the 2028 Olympics.

As expected, IOC members approved an agreement made among the two cities and IOC leaders earlier this summer to make the historic double award.

Before that, today’s meeting in Lima, Peru, was scheduled to be a vote between Paris and LA for the 2024 Games only. Recognizing the two strong bids, IOC leaders pushed this spring and summer to award Olympics and Paralympics to both cities this year.

LA and Paris gave 25-minute presentations Wednesday with speeches and videos to IOC members before the show of hands.

The LA 2028 speakers included Olympic champions Allyson FelixJanet Evans and Angela RuggieroMichael Johnson, who turned 50 on Wednesday, was also in attendance.

USOC chairman Larry Probst spoke of perseverance.

The U.S. lost in bidding for 2012 (New York City) and 2016 (Chicago). Its original 2024 bid city, Boston, dropped out two years ago after lack of local support.

For LA, it started with a January 2013 letter from former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to the USOC expressing interest in bidding for the 2024 Olympics. It was signed by Magic Johnson and Tom Hanks.

LA lost to Boston in the initial competition to be the U.S. host city before taking over quickly after Boston bowed out. It navigated a crowded original 2024 international bid race that saw Rome, Hamburg and Budapest all drop out.

“It has been a formidable journey to get here, but we never gave up hope,” Probst said in his speech Wednesday.

Paris’ presentation included a video titled, “24 words for Paris 2024” that featured Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner and Neymar, the Brazilian soccer gold medalist who last month transferred from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.

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Additionally, French president Emmanuel Macron spoke in a pre-recorded video.

“I wanted to re-emphasize here the full commitment of a whole country behind these Games,” Macron said. “In our world today, defending the values of Olympism also means working for greater balance, more multilateralism and towards a more inclusive, more sustainable society.”

The last time two Olympic hosts were determined at once was in 1921, when the 1924 Paris and 1928 Amsterdam Games were awarded, according to Olympstats.com. LA and Paris will join London as the only cities to host the Olympics three times.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996). Paris will host for the first time since 1924.

The U.S. ends its longest drought between hosting an Olympics since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960. It failed in bids for 2012 (New York City) and 2016 (Chicago).

Paris was a finalist for 1992, 2008 and 2012.

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