It’s time for baseball to return to the Olympic Games…again
Olympic.ca is sharing ideas of what Olympic sport might be for upcoming Games. We are calling this series: Future Games.
I am extremely biased, I love baseball: One of the greatest injustices in sports needs to be righted; baseball needs to be brought back and be included as part of the Olympic Movement.
In 2005, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted baseball and softball out as an Olympic discipline removing 300 athletes (16 countries) from competition. We know that we won’t see it at Rio 2016, but what about Tokyo 2020 and beyond?
Under the IOC’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” reforms, host cities are allowed to propose the inclusion of one or more additional events for their Games. That makes baseball an obvious walk-off right? Not quite. Although the IOC recognizes the undeniable popularity of baseball in Japan and the potential revenue it would generate in ticketing, broadcast viewership, and so on, there are other hopeful disciplines including squash and karate, which are expected to be given a serious look for future consideration.
How has baseball progressed since 2005?
Baseball is an international game. It is no secret, baseball is dominated by the Americas and areas of Asia, but let’s be honest, most Olympic disciplines are the same. Take a look at the World Baseball Classic (WBC), it is a sixteen-team competition held every three years, and is proof that international baseball tournaments are not only popular but very viable. In 2013, the most recent WBC, four European countries qualified with Netherlands finishing fourth overall. Major League Baseball (MLB) supports and promotes the WBC and continues to actively support the Olympic Movement. It is no coincidence you will be seeing MLB-affiliated minor-league players in the Pan American Games this summer in Toronto.
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Drug-testing has improved dramatically. One reason the IOC decided to drop baseball from the Olympic Games was Major League Baseball’s inability to adopt serious performance enhancing drug tests, especially in the minor league. I think we can all agree that this has improved since 2005, see Bonds, Clemens and Braun. MLB has and will continue to pursue thorough investigation into the use of illegal substances. One can look at the “Mitchell Report,” an United States study released in 2007, covering the history of the use of illegal substances and includes future prevention practices. Baseball still has some work to do to ensure a clean game, but such is the case for many disciplines, just ask Dylan Armstrong.
The case for baseball to return as a winter sport:
Yes, you read that correctly. If baseball is once again denied for the Tokyo Summer Games, maybe it should be considered for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. Last year, Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal wrote this article on why baseball should become a Winter Olympic Sport, have a read. Costa mentions that playing baseball in February addresses the IOC-MLB conflict of having the world’s best players available, much like the World Baseball Classic.
Anyway, while we wait on the IOC’s decision, it is once again that time of the year to board the Blue Jays bandwagon, well you know, until we jump off in July.