RIO DE JANEIRO -- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) held a general meeting here on Aug. 3 and unanimously voted to approve the proposal made by the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to add 18 events in five sports including baseball/softball.
Baseball/softball will make their first comeback since they were taken off the program after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing that are popular among young people as well as karate were accepted by the IOC for the first time.
The inclusion of baseball, a national sport in Japan, in which the Japanese team could win a gold medal is expected to further invigorate the 2020 Tokyo Games and attract a huge audience.
Using the special privilege given by the IOC, the organizing committee had been most vehemently pushing for the inclusion of baseball in the program. Baseball appeared first in a promotion video run by the organizing committee at the IOC general meeting, with Shohei Otani, a pitcher for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, sending a message that it will be a dream stage for all players.
The IOC unanimously voted to add the sports. The biggest reason for baseball to be taken off the program after the Beijing Games was that the organizers failed to receive assurances from Major League Baseball (MLB) in the U.S. that its players would take part in the Games, and that problem hanged over the organizers this time again.
Citing the fact that top players, including Tiger Woods, decided not to take part in the Rio Olympic Games -- the first golf event in 112 years -- Chang Ung, an IOC member from North Korea, voiced concern that a similar thing could happen to baseball for the 2020 Tokyo Games. IOC Program Commission Chairman Franco Carraro (from Italy) spoke for the Tokyo organizing committee, saying that Japan promised that there would be no professional baseball games played during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. But top players must take part in the Olympic event in order to achieve success.
Baseball will be included in the Olympic program only for the 2020 Tokyo Games, but it could remain in the program after the Tokyo Games if the Tokyo event were to drive home the appeal of the sport.