Will baseball return to the Olympics in 2016?

Last week a delegation from the International Baseball Federation arrived in Lausanne, Switzerland, to present its case for returning the sport of baseball to the Olympic program.  Members of the delegation included IBAF president and longtime sports executive Harvey Schiller and current Detroit Tiger Curtis Granderson.

(Brief digression:  I am duty-bound to note that Harvey Schiller is a 1960 graduate of The Citadel.)

For those unaware, the Beijing games marked the end of baseball and softball as Olympic sports, due to a vote held by the International Olympic Committee in 2005.  They became the first two sports tossed out of the Olympics since 1936, when polo was eliminated.  As to why they were given the heave-ho, there wasn’t really an official reason (at least, not a legitimate one), but the actual reasons were:

1)  For baseball, the IOC was annoyed that MLB wouldn’t stop its season and let its best players compete in the Games.  The honchos that run the Olympics are big on the Games being the #1 goal/event for all sports (with the notable exception of soccer).  That clearly wasn’t the case for baseball (and that is still the case, obviously).

2)  There was also some grumbling about drugs, but that was probably a side issue.  Dick Pound would claim otherwise, but then, he probably thinks baseball is played by savages.

3)  Softball’s problem was that it was perceived as being dominated by Americans, and why give the U.S. an easy gold medal?  “Gimme” golds are reserved for select Euro countries and China.  (There was talk that the modern pentathlon might go, too, but since U.S. athletes have generally not fared well in that event, it was probably never in serious danger of being excised from the Games.)  Of course, the gold medal in softball in Beijing was actually won by the Japanese, which I guess qualifies as irony.

There are two slots open for the 2016 Games, and baseball and softball are competing with several other sports, including rugby, golf, squash, and roller sports (which apparently would not include roller hockey or skateboarding; not including roller hockey would be a dealbreaker for me if I had a vote).

I don’t think baseball is getting back in the Olympics until MLB suspends its season to let its stars participate, and that’s never going to happen.  What is particularly irksome is that soccer, another sport that doesn’t send most of its best players to the Olympics, is allowed to remain in the Games, as essentially an under-23 tournament (with three spots reserved for “overage” players).  I think baseball would be best served by a similar policy.  However, the IOC isn’t going to go for that.  I’m not sure the IBAF is interested in that idea, either.

It’s too bad, really.  I do think softball has a chance to be reinstated, now that the IOC has seen that the U.S. isn’t a mortal lock for the gold every time out.

I’ll close by noting that another sport is trying to bust into the Olympics in 2012.  It may not have a shot to make it to the London games, but perhaps 2016 isn’t out of reach.  I’m talking, of course, about Pole Dancing.

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