The United States may have the highest medal count in the last three summer games, but when it comes to truly American sports, two missed the qualifying round. On July 8, the International Olympic Committee announced that baseball and softball will be cut, beginning with the 2012 London Games — the first sports eliminated since polo in 1936.
Each of the 28 Olympic sports was put to a secret vote on June 8. Baseball and softball failed to receive a majority of votes. Following those votes, the IOC rejected adding squash and karate — both of which failed to get the required two-thirds approval — so there are yet to be replacements for baseball and softball. Baseball and softball can reapply for the 2016 Games.
Softball got the boot because many IOC members “think it’s the same sport”as baseball, U.S. IOC member Anita DeFrantz told the Associated Press. She also noted that 51 of the 115 IOC members are from Europe, where softball isn’t popular. An AP story reported that the IOC cut baseball and softball because the two sports were “unwanted by international sports officials who felt they were too American for the world stage.”
Baseball, which is based on the English game rounders, was first introduced to the Olympics at the 1984 Los Angeles Games as a demonstration sport and became a medal sport in 1992 at Barcelona. Cuba has won the gold three out of four tries, with the United States claiming the fourth.
Baseball’s standing with the Olympics panel also suffered at the hands of Major League Baseball, which refused to send top players to the Games. In fact, the IOC and MLB never reached a pact. IOC officials found this to be bothersome, and especially so since the NBA has sent top players since 1992 and the NHL even stopped its regular-season play in 1998 and 2000 in order to field teams for the Winter Olympics.
Despite the IOC’s lack of interest in baseball, in the 1996 Atlanta Games, the average attendance for any one of the 32 Olympic baseball games was 28,749. MLB’s chief operating officer, Bob DuPuy, told the AP that since 1990, the number of national baseball federations has grown from 60 to 122. With numbers like those, it’s hard to claim disinterest.
On Monday, the MLB and the players’ association announced that players will be eligible to compete in international play when the inaugural World Baseball Classic opens its 18-day run on March 3. The hope is to increase global exposure and interest.
The facts that U.S. women dominated in softball and baseball is an American sport are undeniable.
Americans don’t balk at table tennis, which is dominated by the Chinese, or luge competitions, which are popular with Europeans. Saying a sport is “too American”exhibits a failure to recognize the global popularity these and other “American” sports have achieved. We encourage supporters of those sports to reapply for the 2016 Games. The IOC’s vote seems more anti-American than anti-baseball, and that’s not in the spirit of the Olympics.