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Softball and baseball lose out to wrestling

Knowles disappointed in unsuccessful bid of joint sport for inclusion into Olympic program
  • NOT THIS TIME: From left are former Bahamas Softball Federation president and current secretary general of the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) Romell 'Fish' Knowles, and BOC president Wellington Miller. Knowles believes the IOC got it wrong in voting in wrestling to the Olympic program, and excluding the joint effort of softball and baseball. FILE

Guardian Sports Editor

Published: Sep 11, 2013

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It’s official!

The sport of wrestling is back on the Olympic program, and the joint effort of softball and baseball, which was arguably the more popular choice among Bahamians, was unsuccessful.

Former Bahamas Softball Federation (BSF) President and current secretary general of the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) Romell ‘Fish’ Knowles, said that whereas he is happy for the sport of wrestling, his heart remains with softball, and he is of the view that the joint effort by the two disciplines should have been successful.

“In this one, I think that the IOC got it wrong,” said Knowles last night. “I’m a softball guy, so having softball defeated was obviously disappointing. Now that the gender equality is there with women playing softball, and men playing baseball, the joint case that was presented should have been accepted. Nonetheless, we respect the decision. We now look forward to working with Clarence here, and ensuring that wrestling grows as a sport here in The Bahamas so that we could have athletes competing in the Olympics in that discipline.”

Clarence Rolle is the president of the Bahamas Amateur Wrestling Federation (BAWF), and also sits on the executive board of the BOC.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegates voted over the weekend to have wrestling return to the Olympic program, just seven short months after it was voted off. That in itself, said Knowles, shows that there were some initial concerns about wrestling, even though the roots of the sport goes back to the start of the Olympic Movement more than 100 years ago.

Overall, there are 25 core sports on the Olympic program. In the final vote tally, wrestling received 49 votes to win in the first round of the secret balloting by the IOC, compared to just 24 for softball-baseball, and 22 for squash, for inclusion into the 2020 and 2024 Olympic programs. Tokyo, Japan was selected as the host city for the 2020 games this past weekend.

“A number of IOC members have said that the entire program needs to be looked at again because of costs and economics,” said Knowles. “How it is structured now, it creates some concerns about the Olympics being the best they could be without certain sports being included. I’m sure that throughout the course of Bach’s first term as president, the Olympic program, in terms of the core sports, will be looked at. Hopefully, it will open the doors for softball and baseball to put another bid in and get back on the program.”

Softball and baseball were voted off the Olympic program following the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, with a chance to be re-instated for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games, during the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this past weekend. Also, just yesterday, German Thomas Bach was voted in as the new IOC president, replacing Jacques Rogge who stepped down after 12 years in office. As for the bid by softball-baseball, Knowles said that one of the aspects that hurt the effort was the refusal of Major League Baseball (MLB) to release its players for two weeks during the summer months, so that they could represent their respective countries at the Olympics.

As far as the 25 core sports quota is concerned, Knowles said that a lot of the IOC members want that re-visited, so that the games themselves could have more flexibility.

“When you look at it, wrestling was just voted off in February, and now here it is back on again. I’m sure that the IOC, in conjunction with the NOCs (National Olympic Committees) are going to look at that, and see how we could have the best games,” said Knowles. “If it comes back to the quota, do we want it hard and fast, or do we want to say to the existing members you could only have a certain number of athletes so that we could accommodate more sports. I know that it’s economical but we still need to look at having the best program. In my opinion, I believe that softball and baseball should be on the program.”

Softball-baseball and squash could potentially get another chance to make it onto the 2020 program. Squash was trying to make the Olympics for a third time, and men's baseball and women's softball merged into a single federation to try to return to the Olympics after being dropped for 2012 and 2016.

For the future, it is understood that the IOC will consider tweaking the process, possibly juggling events and disciplines to make room for new sports while keeping within the cap of 10,500 athletes.

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