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Jonny Gould
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14 August 2009

IBAF Statement Regarding IOC’s Announcement on Re-instatement To The Olympic Programme For 2016

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) today issued the following statement after the announcement earlier today in Berlin on which two sports would be put forth for a vote in October in Copenhagen for re-instatement for the 2016 Olympics.

The IBAF would like to congratulate golf and rugby on their selection today. Both will be welcome additions to the Olympic programme and should add great excitement to which ever city is selected to host the Olympic Games in 2016. We also want to wish nothing but the best to karate, roller sports, softball and squash, who were also not selected today. All of the seven sports under consideration have proven through the selection process that they are worthy of Olympic Games inclusion.

Today is certainly a disappointing day for the billions of fans and participants around the globe who love the game of baseball, especially for the many young people from emerging countries who are now just learning the game and will not get the opportunity to realise the Olympic dream that so many before them have had. We effectively addressed all the International Olympic Committee’s questions with regard to re-instatement and are confident that we had made the best presentation possible.

The game of baseball has grown stronger around the world, and overall baseball is seen and played by more boys and girls and men and women, both disabled and able-bodied, than ever before. Baseball will always emulate the Olympic ideals, and we predict that the IOC will be asking baseball back to the games for 2020, as we will continue to be the best partner for global sport possible.

On behalf of all our federations, we want to thank President Rogge and the IOC for the opportunity to be re-instated to the Olympic programme, and we wish all the best going forward.


12 August 2009

THURSDAY IS D (AS IN DECISION) FOR OLYMPIC BASEBALL

by Jerry Milani, http://www.facebook.com/l/;Baseballdigest.com

This Thursday, while baseball fans in the United States are gearing up for pennant races and starting to follow the phenomenon of the Little League World Series, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge will make an announcement in Berlin that could affect the future of literally thousands of young baseball players around the globe.

President Rogge will announce which two sports of the seven under consideration will be put forth for a vote to the IOC members for inclusion in the Olympic program for 2016. Baseball, along with softball, golf, rugby, roller sports, karate and squash are vying for the right to be presented to the IOC membership for a vote in October in Copenhagen.

But with baseball doing so well as a global sport it is one of the few sports outside of soccer that can be called the National Pastime in nations ranging from the United States and Japan to Korea, Cuba and the Dominican Republic why is Olympic inclusion even important? After all, the continued growth of the World Baseball Classic along with millions of dollars invested in development of the sport around the world really should put baseball on a global stage regardless of the Olympics, shouldn’t it?

While all that is true, the answer is that the Olympics remains a very important piece in the growth of baseball in many developing countries, since those sport federations get at least part of their funding from government dollars, many of which are provided to sports in the Olympic program. So while it may not be as big a deal for the growth in countries where the sport is popular, or even in some emerging nations like Italy or the Netherlands or even India, where baseball is gaining interest, the development of baseball for children can and may be slowed if baseball is left out of the picture on Thursday.

In many ways baseball may be a victim of its own global success in the eyes of many involved in the decision. The sport is arguably the third-largest in the world in terms of participation behind soccer and basketball, and even in a slow economy, the visibility, innovation and revenue generated by Major League Baseball as well as the Japanese League is in the billions, and dwarfs the visibility and revenue of most other global professional sports.

And although the issue of performance enhancing drugs is an issue for all sports, baseball’s year-round visibility has made it the poster child for steroid controversy, despite the fact that MLB and the Players Association have probably done more to correct the problem and be leaders in the anti-doping area than any other sport. Baseball effectively addressed the issue head-on on the international front as well, and has been fully WADA-compliant, a very positive development that is often missed in the steroid debate.

There is also the top player issue that is frequently brought up as a barrier to return to the Olympics for the sport, yet when baseball was first brought into the Olympics in 1992, one of the caveats was that amateur or non-MLB players be used in the competition. As the Olympics have evolved very quickly into a professional sport endeavour, baseball has been playing catch-up on the pro side and had a good sampling of 40 man roster players in the Beijing Games, over half of which have moved on to Major League rosters since the end of last year’s Olympics.

The sport’s most recent proposal to the IOC even guaranteed the use of star players from Major League Baseball in a five day tournament in 2016, and outgoing Players Association head Don Fehr has pointed quite accurately to the fact that the World Baseball Classic and other events have served to create positive inroads for players to get used to the international game. In fact, virtually every current player on an MLB roster who has been asked, has said that if they are selected, they would find a way to play for their country in 2016, a list that includes current stars like the Phillies Shane Victorino, the Tigers Curtis Granderson, the Red Sox Victor Martinez and the Yankees C.C. Sabathia among many others.

More importantly than the current stars, baseball has looked to the future and gotten buy-in from players like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Yu Darvish, players who may be in their prime in 2016 and have already tasted international play, to say they would also play in 2016. Yet even with all that work, and the fact that almost 300 current professional players have played Olympic baseball since 1992, the perception remains that the sport may lack star power in 2016.

At the end of day on Thursday, it may come down to the simple fact that the IOC does not see baseball fitting in as part of the program any more, despite the fact that the sports leaders’ who rarely unite on any issue have worked tirelessly to fix all the issues that had baseball removed from the program for 2012. The reasons whispered size of rosters, lack of appeal in Europe (where most of the Executive Committee hails from), stadium issues, the inability to shut down the season (which is not asked of any other professional sports in the summer, including soccer and tennis and others), the lack of a woman’s discipline (the IBAF has added a women’s
proposal by the way, and has formed a committee to develop women’s baseball further, chaired by Dr. Donna Lopiano) are all reasons that can be overcome if there was interest by the IOC.

In truth, baseball has offered not just to offset any financial burdens in infrastructure that may exist, but will also form a joint marketing program with the IOC to promote baseball and the Olympics to the largest possible audience year-round for the next seven years, a claim which none of the other sports can offer. Even from a finance standpoint, the amount of money in ticket revenue that could be generated in a five day tournament in two stadiums in Tokyo or Chicago (two of the potential cities) could be in excess of $30 million dollars, while Rio or Madrid would still offer up crowds in excess of 10,000 people per day.

So has baseball made its best pitch for Olympic re-inclusion? If you look at the facts you have to say yes. As a matter of fact, the entire process has probably done more to grow the game, from the addressing of anti-doping to the increased play in nations around the world, than if baseball did not have to fight to get back into the Olympics. The real downside will be the young people who will no longer get that exposure to a sport that is all-inclusive, teaches fair play and discipline, is relatively inexpensive to play and promotes healthy physical activity. That is a fairly large downside in terms of development for the future, but one thing is for sure, baseball is a sport that has always shown resilience, and even with a thumbs down from the IOC, it will find a way to make sure it continues to grow around the world.

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