Monday, October 14, 2013

Commentary: IOC wrong to cut baseball, softball

Commentary: IOC wrong to cut baseball, softball

Some voters might have expected golf, rugby to be added to Games, but it didn't happen

— Trust the International Olympic Committee to drop the ball. Make that a couple of balls - baseball and softball, to be specific.
Both sports lost their spots on the 2012 Olympic program when each failed to achieve a majority in a secret vote by IOC members Friday in Singapore. Baseball and softball were among sports targeted by IOC president Jacques Rogge as vulnerable to expulsion.
Rogge, a former Olympic sailor from Belgium, typifies the IOC's membership - male, white and European. Baseball and softball were about as prominent on Rogge's radar as rodeo and washer toss.
Not that former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain was necessarily a huge balls-and-strikes fan. He was a powerful friend to women's sports, however, which can't be said for the IOC members who voted against softball.
"The women's sports did better under Samaranch," Olympic swimming champion Donna de Varona said Friday. "The IOC is mostly male. It's so sad for softball."
Team USA's vibrant showing in softball's 1996 Olympic debut helped underscore female athletes' progress under Title IX. Though lacking a broad global base, the sport campaigned hard to expand its influence. And anytime a women's team sport goes away, a lot of little girls lose an option, perhaps a dream, and maybe their only chance.
The U.S. has won every softball gold medal since the sport joined the Games in Atlanta. Even USA Baseball secretary general Jack Kelly said he felt particularly crushed by softball's elimination.
"For the softball people, the Olympics was their life," Kelly said. "This happened to be a time when the IOC decided to remind everybody that it's a Eurocentric organization. When modern pentathlon makes the cut, how can you take a process seriously?"
Rogge's goals are for the Summer Games to have a maximum of 28 sports, 301 medal events and 10,500 athletes. Since he took the torch from Samaranch in 2001, Rogge has campaigned to check the Games' growth so that smaller nations would have a chance to stage the Olympics. Fair enough.
No sport can be added without a subtraction. Golf and rugby led the list of sports trying to get on the 2012 program. But after the IOC voted to bounce baseball and softball, it failed to approve the additions of any sports.
No doubt some the IOC members who voted against baseball and softball did so because they expected to add golf and rugby to the program. Surprise! All that secret voting did no more than leave the 2012 Olympics - which were awarded to London on Wednesday - two sports short. Such a miscalculation made the IOC look like a bunch of fools.
The thinking in some Olympic-wired circles is that a U.S. city probably will land the 2016 Summer Games. Considering that baseball and softball still are classified as full-status Olympic sports, they could gain reinstatement for the 2016 Games. The IOC did not reclassify the two sports as mere Olympic sport "affiliates," which would have made bids for reinstatement more difficult.

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