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Knowles optimistic softball and baseball can return

Sporting disciplines looking for inclusion for 2020 Olympics­; decision to be made in September
  • Ashton Butler playing baseball. FILE

Guardian Sports Editor

Published: Apr 09, 2013

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With only one spot available for inclusion into the 2020 Olympic program, the sporting disciplines of baseball and softball have joined forces in an attempt to be re-instated for the biggest sporting competition in the world. They were both voted off the Olympic program, following the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, but with the recent dismissal of wrestling, there is an opening for 2020. Former Bahamas Softball Federation (BSF) President, and current New Providence Softball Association (NPSA) President Romell ‘Fish’ Knowles, remains optimistic.

“That (re-instatement) would mean the world to us,” said Knowles last night. Knowles, who also serves as Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) secretary general, is also seeking a second term in office for that post. He has been nominated, and the BOC elections are set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Paul Farquharson Building at the Royal Bahamas Police Force Headquarters.

As far as the re-instatement of baseball and softball is concerned, Knowles said that it is a work in progress.

“That is an issue that has been ongoing for a number of years, but what you would have seen recently is that softball has grown exponentially in terms of participation and interest. At the Beijing Olympics, softball was sold out. There was a lot of traffic surrounding softball, and baseball as well. What has happened now, is that with the removal of softball from the Olympic program, the assistance from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) in terms of development has been affected. The game of softball truly misses that. That has caused some hardships in terms of development for athletes, and also in terms of equipment being provided to member federations. That has severely restricted the number of things that we could do.”

To say that the worldwide softball community is bonding together would probably be an understatement. According to Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation (ISF) and co-president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), the campaign to return baseball and softball to the Olympic Games “has just entered the sixth inning, and now they’re preparing to swing for the fences.”

The WBSC is a collaboration of the ISF and the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). This coming Sunday, the joint body will officially launch its campaign, geared toward 2020 Olympic inclusion, at the IBAF Congress in Tokyo, Japan. At that time, the new logo, theme, and web site, www.playball2020.com, will be introduced. The WBSC is asking fans of baseball and softball worldwide to join a global media push to support the new website. They are asking their fans to spread the word; get friends, family, and friends of friends to join the line up on the website; like the page and share posts on Facebook and follow them and re-tweet messages on Twitter.

“We need everybody in the world showing their support for our campaign,” said Porter through a press release. “Social media will be very important. We’ll be making a compelling argument that baseball and softball can deliver a greater range of value propositions and benefits to the Olympic Movement worldwide than any other sport in consideration, and we need your help.”

At the end of next month, the WBSC intends to make a 20-minute presentation to the IOC Executive Board at SportAccord in St. Petersburg, Russia, at what time they will showcase a proposal for the two disciplines being played on one field – baseball field converted to softball, and eight teams each playing over six days at the 2020 Olympics, men followed by women. The body has the full support of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) digital and film graphics team in New York, but it is still unsure if the MLB club owners will allow their players to play in the Olympics, which understandably is a major point of interest in the WBSC’s proposal to the IOC Executive Board.

“The WBSC offers the Olympic Movement the best of both worlds, which we call ‘Two Disciplines with One Dream’,” said Porter. “No two disciplines blanket the world as do men’s baseball and women’s softball. We’ve got it covered in every respect – gender equity, participation levels, organizations structure, fan appreciation and commercial appeal, and when you add in the very real growth potential for our sport, no one can touch us. We’re offering a vision and plan to give every boy and girl in the world a chance to play our game and we need the inspiration of the Olympic Games to get there. There’s going to be a lot of positive things that we can do together for both sports, not just for the Olympics but in the long term as well,” he added.

Baseball became an official Olympic sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, and women's fast pitch softball made its Olympic debut four years later in Atlanta, Georgia. They were both dropped from the Olympic program in 2005, and karate, squash, golf, roller sports and rugby union all applied to be included in their places. Eventually, rugby sevens - a seven-man version of rugby union - and golf won the bids for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Now, with wrestling out for the 2020 games, another spot is available, and the joint venture by baseball and softball is hoping for a positive result. Wrestling is also hoping to be re-instated for 2020. They will be joined by karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu, all looking to win their bids for inclusion in 2020. That decision will be made at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 7, 2013, at which time, the host city for the 2020 games will also be announced. The remaining three candidate cities are Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid.

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