Thursday
Aug132009

Baseball Strikes Out, Golf Scores En Route To Possible Olympic Reinstatement

August 13, 2009: In the end, it might have been the possibility of seeing Tiger Woods at the Olympics rather than dealing with situations that have surrounded Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and other baseball stars that might have swayed the International Olympic Committee to recommend that golf and rugby sevens be considered for reinstatement into the Games while baseball and several other sports remain outside looking in.

At a meeting in Berlin on Aug. 13, the IOC executive board approved the proposals of both golf, which has not been an Olympic sport since 1904, and rugby sevens, last seen on the Olympic stage in 1924. The recommendation must now be approved by a full meeting of the IOC congress in Copenhagen in October, which at this point is seen more as a formality than a hurdle. Baseball, softball, squash, karate and roller sports failed in there attempts to be approved for reinstatement.

At the meeting, the IOC executive committee also approved the inclusion of women's boxing as an event at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

There was some talk that baseball's reinstatement might also bolster the chances of Chicago being named by the IOC at the host city for the 2016 Games. However, there was no indication by the IOC in Berlin that rejecting baseball had affected Chicago's chances one way or the other.

Woods might have been the man who helped put golf over the top. This week, Woods said he would seek to be part of an Olympic golf team in 2016 "if I'm not retired by then." Woods would be 40, but seemingly would still be in prime condition to contend for a spot. Supporters of reinstating baseball, which will not be in the Olympics beginning with the 2012 London Games, had pitched the notion that top MLB players would participate even though the Olympics take place during the baseball season. Among the IOC's reasons for voting baseball out of the Olympics was that not enough of the game's stars appeared on national rosters and also that baseball had to resolve such issues such as the use of performance enhancing drugs.

“All seven sports made a strong case for inclusion, and the [executive board] carefully evaluated them in a transparent and fair process. In the end, the decision came down to which two would add the most value,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a statement. “Golf and rugby will be a great addition to the Games.”

According to Rogge, winning a gold medal would now rank as high for golfers as winning a major tournament. "Ask [tennis stars] Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, ask the NHL players, ask the NBA basketball players. They all want to go to the Games," Rogge told reporters after the vote.

The proposed format for golf would be a 72-hole strokeplay competition for men and women, with 60 players in each field. The world's top 15 players would qualify automatically, and all major professional tours would alter tournament schedules to avoid a clash with the Olympics. The International Rugby Board proposed a seven-a-side version for both men and women, and said it would scrap its Sevens World Cup to ensure the Olympics is the sport's top event.

For women's boxing, the International Boxing Federation plans to have 40 female boxers compete in five weight categories, with eight women fighting at each weight.

After the vote, the International Baseball Federation expressed its disappointment in failing to get the game back into the Games. "Today is certainly a disappointing day for the billions of fans and participants around the globe who love the game of baseball, especially for the many young people from emerging countries who are now just learning the game and will not get the opportunity to realize the Olympic dream that so many before them have had. We effectively addressed all the International Olympic Committee’s questions with regard to reinstatement and are confident that we had made the best presentation possible."

The IBAF also congratulated gold and rugby sevens on being recommended for reinstatement. “Both will be welcome additions to the Olympic program and should add great excitement to which ever city is selected to host the Olympic Games in 2016." The IOC will select a host city for the 2016 Olympics in October from among Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.

Baseball Offers IOC Strategy for Olympic Reinstatement

Q&A: Dr. Harvey Schiller, President, International Baseball Federation (February 2009)

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