- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

TOKYO (AP) - Japanese Olympic organizers opened the application process Monday for sports hoping to be added to the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The Tokyo organizing committee launched a two-stage procedure that gives the host city a chance to add one or more sports to the program.

Baseball and softball, which have been off the Olympic program since the 2008 Beijing Games, are considered favorites because of their popularity in Japan. Other possibilities include squash, karate, skateboarding and surfing.

In all, 33 international sports federations have been invited to apply by a June 8 deadline.

Applications will be examined by a special “additional event program” panel, with a shortlist of candidates selected on June 22.

Finalists will make a presentation in Tokyo in August, and the organizing committee will make its recommendation to the International Olympic Committee by Sept. 30.

The IOC will make the final decision in August 2016 at its meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

The Tokyo committee said the bidding competition would be “open and fair.” It said the additional event or events should have a “focus on youth appeal” and engage the Japanese population and a worldwide audience.

The new procedure stems from the IOC’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” reform package approved in December. IOC President Thomas Bach is looking to bring more flexibility to the sports program, which currently features 28 sports and about 300 medal events and 10,000 athletes.

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