The Beijing Games are a swan song for Olympic softball and baseball. A secret vote among the International Olympic Committee in 2005 decided that both baseball and softball were out for the 2012 games. Though losing baseball is tough, for most players, the Olympics were a stepping stone for a MLB career. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers' All Star Ben Sheets first gained fame for leading the 2000 U.S. team to a gold. For softball players, however, the biggest show is the Olympics. Women from around the world compete not for top contracts, but for a gold medal.
According to the International Softball Federation, softball is played in 128 countries and on all continents. Though the United States has been dominant at the highest levels of play, winning every gold medal that has been awarded since the sport was added to the Olympics in 1996, the sport is strong all over the world. Australia, Japan and Canada will all contend with the U.S. for the gold medal in Beijing. Since the committee's vote was secret, the ISF does not know the exact reasons why softball was cut. Its association with baseball and the U.S.A.'s performance certainly did not help matters.
Softball is not taking this defeat lying down. Though softball is out for the London Olympics, the sport can be reinstated for 2016. The ISF started the Back Softball campaign to raise awareness and participation for the game internationally. Hopefully, softball will return, and be played in a city that loves it.
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