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Softball Gets an Olympic Reprieve

An overwhelming majority of the International Olympic Committee was agreed Friday to postpone a vote on the proposal to drop softball, baseball and modern pentathlon from the 2008 games. While the issue will be reconsidered after the 2004 Athens Games, the short notice that schedule leaves for planning 2008, coupled with the sentiment expressed at the meeting in Mexico – none of the 39 persons who spoke favored eliminating the three sports, and some Committee members were openly declaring their belief that the decision, considered a defeat for IOC President Rogge, ensures that the three sports will remain in Olympic competition in 2008.

The Associated Press filed this report after the meeting:

Decision Postponed

Baseball, softball, modern penthalon live to play another day By Stephen Wilson // Associated Press Nov. 29, 2002

MEXICO CITY -- Baseball, softball and modern pentathlon are staying in the Olympics, for now at least.

Three months after an Olympic panel proposed dropping the three sports for the 2008 Beijing Games, the IOC decided Friday to put off any vote until after the 2004 Athens Games.

The decision sharply reduces the chances the sports will be dropped from Beijing 's schedule, because of the short amount of notice. Also, the vote probably rules out the chances of golf or rugby being added for Beijing , as had been proposed.

The two-year postponement was a defeat for International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, who had commissioned the proposed changes and pushed for a vote this week.

"I don't think I misjudged anything," Rogge insisted.

He said the sports could still be dropped for Beijing .

"It all will depend on how the three federations perform in Athens ," Rogge said. "The decision could affect 2008 or 2012. No date is fixed."

However, IOC members said they fully expect the sports to stay through 2008 at least. The first scheduled IOC session after Athens is in 2005, when members will be selecting the 2012 host city.

"They're in for 2008," Canadian member Paul Henderson said. "Nobody's going to kick out a sport in 2005. These guys are in until 2012, there's no question about it."

The sports expressed mixed feelings over the postponement, suggesting they had been left in limbo.

"It doesn't make our life easier," modern pentathlon chief Klaus Schormann said, citing uncertainty among his sport's sponsors. "But the clouds are not dark as at the beginning. They are light, feathery clouds."

Softball federation president Don Porter said he had hoped for a more definitive decision.

"What I'm satisfied with is the amount of support we got from the IOC members," he said. "I'm disappointed that they didn't come to a vote. I think we would probably have prevailed. This kind of keeps us under a shadow."

After 10-minute presentations to the assembly by leaders of the three endangered sports, dozens of rank-and-file IOC members took the floor to question the whole process and push for a postponement.

Of the 39 speakers, not a single one spoke in favor of the proposals to cut the sports.

"It is urgent to wait," Senegalese member Youssoupha Ndiaye said in a statement that summed up much of the 2 1/2-hour debate.

Rogge then conferred with his executive board and submitted a proposal to put off any deletion of sports until after Athens.

Of the 117 attending members, only two raised their hands against the postponement, while four abstained. On a separate motion, the members approved the "general principles" of the IOC's review of the sports program.

The last sport dropped from the Summer Olympics was polo in 1936, and IOC members made clear they had no desire for radical change now.

The IOC program commission recommended in August that the three sports be cut from the Beijing Olympics. The report cited lack of global popularity, high venue costs and, in the case of baseball, the absence of top major league players.

But the sports waged a successful lobbying campaign, and many IOC members said they had not been given sufficient input or time to make a decision.

Senior Canadian member Dick Pound said Rogge and his executive board must have realized they had little support because they never endorsed the proposals.

"I think a lot of it was to keep the program commission from going under and going down in flames," he said. "But I don't approach this as a triumph or failure on the part of Jacques. If the program commission did nothing else it sure got everybody's attention."

Baseball has been a medal sport since 1992. Softball, a women-only event, was added in 1996. Modern pentathlon, a five-sport discipline created by modern Olympics founder Pierre de Coubertin, was introduced in 1912.

Softball brought out Croatian player Jelena Tomic, who noted that the Olympic Charter stresses the need for increased participation of women in the games.

"To take away the dream from so many girls is like banning women from all sports in the Olympics," she said, her voice breaking with emotion.

Baseball federation chief Aldo Notari of Italy noted that he had proposed reducing the Olympic tournament from 11 days to five days, a move which would improve the chances of major leaguers taking part.

"The fact that the best athletes are not included in the games -- this definitely will be solved by Beijing ," he insisted.

Removing his sport from the Olympics would be "the end of baseball as a world sport," Notari said.

Israeli member Alex Gilady criticized major league baseball for failing to release top players for the Olympics.

"Major league baseball so far is part of the problem and not part of the solution," he said. "If the Olympics is so important to them, they can show us."

Schormann, the head of the modern pentathlon federation, said being dropped from the Olympics would kill his sport altogether.

"Don't send us to the Olympic museum," he said

Dear Softball Family,

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Program Commission has recommended to eliminate softball - along with two other sports - from the Olympic program, beginning with the 2008 Games in Beijing. A call to action is necessary to protect softball from being eliminated. Time is of the essence, the vote is next week.

The vote (by the 128 IOC members) will take place in Mexico City next week Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).

As I stated, the first thing to do in providing assistance to us is to be sure to encourage many, many others to get involved too, using any or all of the following means (in no particular order):

One option is to contact your IOC member(s) and National Olympic Committee. For your convenience, I am providing the information below for these people (for the U.S.). I am also happy to provide the appropriate IOC/NOC contact information to other people that you might know in a different country. Have them e-mail me (as per you) and tell me where they are and I will reply with the necessary information for that country's IOC member(s) and NOC.

Next, on the website they have a (yellowish) banner ad at the top of every page which, when clicked on, (opens a new window and) takes the site visitor to a Forum where comments can be posted (re: keeping softball in the Olympics). The International Softball Federation would like to see people posting and including in their post what country they are in.

Also, there is an online poll at (be sure to maximize your browser window, as it is in the upper corner in the right-hand margin) where people can vote on which sport (of the three in question) should stay on the Olympic program. The person who runs this site is e-mailing out the results every day to people involved with the Olympic Movement.

In addition, people could go right to the IOC website and single-click on the light bulb in the bottom right corner of the homepage, next to where it says Public Suggestions. The National Fast Pitch Coaches Association has put together the following step-by-step process, which makes it much easier to fill out the IOC's forms that come up once you click Public Suggestions: (1) It will ask for some personal information. (2) Choose "Games as a Whole," then "Summer Games," followed by "Competition Program." (3) It will ask you to write a title, something like "Keep Softball in Olympic Games" (4) It will ask for your idea. This should be something along the lines of: "Softball is a worldwide sport that should be kept in the Olympics. Not only is it popular worldwide, but it is a great sport for television." The key point to make is that softball is a global sport, not just popular in the United States. (5) Then it will ask "How do you see it working." You can use this space to sell your point, mentioning one or more of these factors: (a) Strong women's sport in a time when IOC should be promoting women's sports; (b) rest of world is catching up to U.S. and competition is very competitive; (c) 2008 host China is very competitive and probably will be medallist; (d) television likes to televise softball and gets great ratings; (e) many players from within Asia, Oceania, and Europe are able to obtain college education through their softball-playing abilities, and then (6) follow the prompts to send your email.

Information relative to what the IOC's Program Commission said were softball’s shortcomings and the responses ISF gave to that.

They said that they "reviewed participation on a global level and concluded that softball is popular in certain countries, but this popularity is not reflected throughout entire regions or continents. This has resulted in relatively low global broadcast and press levels."

The percentage breakdown of our members (national federations/associations) is as follows: Europe - 32%, Africa - 12%, Americas - 28%, Oceania - 11%, Asia - 17%. THAT WE ABSOLUTELY KNOW OF (only through numbers reported to us by our members), there are over six million participants in the sport worldwide (1,090,547 adult women, 2,031,978 junior women, 2,712,945 adult men, and 180,503 junior men).

We have 124 members national federations/associations That number ranks eighth out of the 28 Summer Olympic sports!

Softball ticket sales in Sydney ranked 11th.

(Are you starting to get the picture here? If one was going to recommend dropping three sports from the Olympics, wouldn't it be logical for them to be the ones that continually fall at the bottom -- 26, 27, 28 positions -- of many of these different rankings? Why us, in the top 5-15 of various categories?)

In 1996 in Atlanta (Columbus, Georgia), softball's Olympic debut was marked by success on television as well. Our rating average was fifth among the top ten women's events. (It moved up to fourth in Sydney, Australia in the 2000 Olympics.) Olympic broadcaster NBC has already stated its intent to increase television coverage of softball at the Games in Greece in 2004. (In Japan alone, more people tuned in to watch women's softball than the Opening Ceremonies in Sydney.)

Softball is on the program of more than a dozen multi-sport (regional/continental) games. Notably, the Pan American Games, the Asian Games, the South American Games, and the Central American & Caribbean Sports Games (which begin this Saturday in El Salvador), to name a few. IN ADDITION, women's softball has been added to the program of the All-Africa Games. The debut there will come next October (2003), and will replace shooting, an Olympic sport that many African nations medal in! (Also, each year there are Regional Championships in each of the five ISF regions -- Europe, Africa, Americas, Asia, and Oceania -- in women's and men's competitions as well as junior competitions.) Softball's growth has resulted in a demand for more international opportunities, resulting in the formation of new events, such as the Inaugural Junior Girls' World Cup (November, 2001) , which the ISF will again host next July

As to television coverage of our sport, many of our world championships have had games televised and/or covered on the internet (i.e., live audio of radio broadcasts of 2002 Women's World Championship games). The gold and bronze medal games were shown on America One networks, and on WTSN in Canada, the world's first 24-hour network dedicated to covering women's sports ( Plus, ESPN & ESPN2, as well as three ESPN International networks, will air the gold medal game in January Their affiliate in Japan -- that country's top cable platform, seen in a million households -- will also be airing the bronze medal game. For the ISF's 1998 Women's World Championship there were 100-150 hours of TV coverage (SkySports and SBS). And, an estimated audience of 38 million people watched the live telecast of the gold medal game of the 1994 ISF Women's World Championship.

With an eye on the Olympics, the ISF has made changes to the sport to make it more appealing to the fans, media, players, and television broadcasters by discussing these changes with the television networks. (The changes made were: pitching distance moved from 40 to 43 feet, fence distanced moved from 200 to 220 feet, tiebreaker starting with the top of the eighth inning rather than starting with the top of the tenth inning, and pitchers not having to throw four balls for an intentional walk.)   As a result, game times have already been proven (Women's World Championship and Asian Games) to be under two hours, which assists TV by giving a window that will fit under the desired broadcast time (of two hours or less). (Scoring also increased and there were fewer strikeouts.)

The IOC Program Commission also cited the high cost of venue construction for Olympic (softball) competition. The need for softball-specific venues for competition and training, and the fact that due to the relatively low global participation, there are few cities having existing venues at the required level, or demand for the use of such venues following the Games.

In 1996 at the Olympic Games in Atlanta (softball played in nearby Columbus, GA), the sport made its debut at a venue that already existed. At the Games in Sydney, the softball facility was less costly than those of many other events. In addition, the softball venues from both the 1996 and 2000 Olympics continue to be used, including a world championship that has already been played in the stadium in Sydney Again, in 2004, the venue in Athens is less costly than many other sports.

Our sport has even held major events including the Olympics, world championships, and world cups in non-softball facilities that included existing baseball diamonds as well as soccer fields and cricket grounds. For the location of the ISF world headquarters, the Federation even chose a site that had a stadium built for baseball on its premises, choosing to simply make adjustments to accommodate softball. This very same stadium is now hosting many international SOFTBALL events and provides for training and coaching courses year round. (see ABOUT OUR HEADQUARTERS on

Another impressive side of softball is that there have never been any positive tests in doping, both in the Olympics and in world championships, dating back to 1985.

It should also be pointed out that the ISF has committed considerable financial resources to the development of softball, with softball equipment distributed to and coaching/umpiring courses held in every part of the world. The ISF, in its continuing process of developing softball, has provided in the last four years almost a million (U.S.) dollars in softball equipment to over 50 countries. The ISF has committed almost half of its annual budget to development over the last two years.

As for women in the sport, there are only 120 athletes that play softball in the Olympics. Softball is one of only three sports at the Olympics that is played there by women only. Currently, 38% of the overall Olympic participants are made up of women. The Federation has shown its commitment to women's involvement in administration as well. Twenty percent of the ISF Executive Committee members are female, and 37% of the ISF member federations/associations have a female President and/or Secretary General.

Here is the contact information alluded to above (please note that these are NOT the people responsible for trying to take softball out of the Olympics, but rather, the ones who could help us keep it in):

Jeffrey Benz, International Relations
United States Olympic Committee
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
(719) 578-4631 p.
(719) 866-4684 f.

Robert Ctvrtlik (IOC member and IOC Athletes Commission member)
610 Newport Center Drive
Suite 1060
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 760-5307 p.
(949) 760-8192 f.

Anita DeFrantz (IOC member)
Amateur Athletic Foundation
2141 West Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018
(323) 730-9600 p.
(323) 730-9612 f.
(we don't have an e-mail address for her, but perhaps you can send something to and put "Attn: Anita DeFrantz" on the subject line)

James Easton (IOC member)
Easton, Inc.
7855 Haskell Ave., #202
Van Nuys, CA 91406-1902
(818) 782-6445 p.
(818) 994-3889 f.

Feel free to spread the word to players, coaches, umpires, fans, etc. It's everybody's game. We appreciate everyone's support. It probably wouldn't hurt for our supporters to contact the media either.

Together we can make a difference, please act quickly, the vote is in Mexico City, next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.