TOKYO : While Japan achieved their goal of winning gold in baseball and softball as Tokyo 2020 hosts, a bigger mission to make the sports permanent members of the Olympic line-up is yet to be accomplished.
No news conference and barely any conversation at the Games could go without some acknowledgement that the joys, sorrows https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/softball-one-curve-ends-gold-chase-canada-pitcher-out-retirement-2021-07-25, anxiety and relief https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/baseball-dominican-republic-take-bronze-first-ever-team-medal-2021-08-07 experienced by 144 baseball players and 90 softball athletes over the last 18 muggy days may never be felt again.
Baseball and softball will not appear at Paris 2024. But players twinkle at the possibility of playing at storied Dodger Stadium before 56,000 people at the Los Angeles 2028 games.
The International Olympic Committee next year will decide the 2028 core programme, and the bat-ball sports could be voted back for good. If not, LA28 local organisers could follow their Tokyo predecessors and return the sports on a one-time basis.
The IOC and LA28 said discussions have not begun. Still, optimism surged in Tokyo among the sports' athletes and officials because results in their view showed that contenders exist around the world, an important factor in IOC support.
Both of Japan's triumphs came over the United States, reminding of the two countries' hegemony over the sports.
But Canada became the fifth country ever to win a softball medal https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/softball-canada-win-bronze-by-beating-mexico-3-2-2021-07-27, taking bronze, and Dominican Republic the seventh country with a baseball medal https://www.reuters.com/article/olympics-2020-bsb/update-1-olympics-baseball-dominican-republic-take-bronze-first-ever-team-medal-idUKL8N2PE0C2, also bronze. Israel won just one baseball contest but proved they belong among the world's best https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/baseball-israels-dejected-us-born-stars-hope-inspire-native-heroes-fill-their-2021-08-03. And efforts are continuing to promote a simplified and fast-paced sport known as "Baseball5" in Africa and the Middle East.
Without providing specific figures, World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari cited social media support and provisional TV viewership in calling Tokyo 2020 a success.
He said the Games were able to "welcome new fans to our beautiful game and inspire a new generation of stars who we look forward to seeing going for gold at the Olympics again soon."
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Michael Perry)