Capsules on 3 sports seeking 2020 Olympic spot
A look at the three sports in contention for one spot in the 2020 Olympics (IOC vote to be held Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina):
Olympic history: Baseball — exhibition or demonstration sport seven times; medal sport in 5 Olympics (1992, ’96, 2000, ’04, ’08). Softball — in 4 Olympics (1996, 2000, ’04, ’08). Both voted out by IOC in 2005 after 2008 Games. Failed in separate bids for reinstatement.
Federation: World Baseball Softball Confederation.
Bid leaders: Riccardo Fraccari (baseball) & Don Porter (softball).
Bid plans: International baseball and softball federations merged this year to improve Olympic chances; separate men’s baseball and women’s softball tournaments of eight teams each; played as back-to-back six-day tournaments at a single venue.
Pros: Baseball hugely popular in parts of Asia and Latin America; softball would bring women’s sport back to games; no other bat-and-ball sport in the Olympics; Olympics is pinnacle for women’s softball players; perseverance of both sports in seeking Olympic return.
Cons: Baseball criticized for not delivering top major leaguers to the Olympics; MLB won’t stop the season to free players for the games; high-profile doping scandals in baseball; Olympics not the ultimate goal for baseball players; both sports lack support and popularity in Europe.
Quote: “We’ve got a lot of young girls and boys out there who want to get their Olympic dreams back.” — Don Porter.
Chances: Likely headed for another strikeout.
Olympic history: None. Just missed out on Olympic inclusion for 2012 and 2016.
Federation: World Squash Federation.
Bid leader: M. Ramachandran.
Bid plans: Men’s and women’s tournaments, each of 32 players, played over five days. Matches played in two glass courts. Video review for refereeing decisions; replays on giant screens.
Pros: All five continents have produced men’s and women’s world champions; bid supported by tennis greats Roger Federer and Andre Agassi; squash played in other major multi-sports events (Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Pan American Games); Olympics would be peak for squash athletes; clean doping record.
Cons: Olympics already has 3 racket sports (tennis, badminton and table tennis); questions over how spectator- and TV-friendly sport would be; sport’s elitist image; questions over how universal sport truly is.
Quote: “The last time ... we had not changed our sport to suit the standards of the IOC. Now we have done that. We have spoken to the IOC. We have improved our sport and the result is there for everybody to see.” — M. Ramachandran.
Chances: Once the favorite, now maybe a stroke too far.
Olympic history: Dates back to ancient Olympics. Either Greco-Roman or freestyle wrestling or both have been in every modern Olympics except 1900. Surprisingly dropped from 2020 Games in February but made shortlist in May for possible inclusion.
Federation: International Wrestling Federation.
Bid leader: Nenad Lalovic.
Bid plans: FILA changed leadership, with Lalovic replacing Raphael Martinetti, and adopted new fan-friendly rules after IOC snub. Scoring system simplified to reward attacking tactics. Women’s medal classes to be increased.
Pros: Feeling that wrestling never should have been dropped in first place; FILA reacted well by making wholesale changes to improve the federation and sport; one of the most traditional of all Olympic sports; dynamic new leader in Lalovic; heavyweight backing of U.S., Russia, Japan, Iran and other countries.
Cons: Inclusion would rule out addition of new sport; bringing back wrestling would mark IOC flip-flop; scoring rules difficult for average fan to understand.
Quote: “We had the strength to change. We made mistakes in the past for sure. Now we are looking forward. We don’t look back.” — Nenad Lalovic.
Chances: A virtual lock.