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Japan to Send Players to Olympics

September 11, 2002

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TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s Central and Pacific Leagues will send a team of their All-Stars to the Athens Olympics.

``Assuming we qualify, we’ll be sending a `dream team,′ `` Kunio Shimoda, a spokesman for the Japanese commissioner’s office, said Wednesday.

Japan will play in an Asian regional qualifying tournament in November 2003 in Sapporo for a berth in the Olympic baseball tournament.

Japan lost to South Korea in the bronze-medal game of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The United States, despite the lack of major leaguers, beat Cuba in the gold-medal game.

The Athens Olympics will run from Aug. 13-29. In the past, Japanese baseball owners _ in particular Tsuneo Watanabe of the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants _ have refused to allow their top players to take part in the Olympics.

Last month, an International Olympic Committee internal report recommended that baseball, softball and modern pentathlon be eliminated after the Athens Olympics. The report cited the absence of the top players, said baseball’s popularity was restricted to certain continents.

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