Baseball, softball, four other sports officially added to 2020 Olympics


Softball and baseball are coming back to the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that it had unanimously approved softball, baseball and four other sports as part of its program for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Also included in 2020 will be surfing, karate, skateboarding and sport climbing.

Softball and baseball were Olympic sports up until 2008, but were eliminated following the Beijing games. They were absent in 2012, and after a 2013 reinstatement bid was denied, remain absent in 2016.

The IOC announced in June that it would recommend all five sports — baseball and softball are considered one sport — for the 2020 Olympic program. Their inclusion became official Wednesday via a vote at the 129th IOC Session. The five sports comprise 18 events and 474 athletes, according to the IOC.

The original decision to eliminate softball and baseball was made in 2005, two days after London was awarded the 2012 games.

Baseball had been played in the Olympics since 1992. The U.S. won one baseball gold medal, in 2000. Cuba won three, and Japan won one.

Softball had been a part of the Olympic program since 1996. The U.S. won the first three gold medals. Japan won the final gold prior to the sport’s removal from the games.

At the IOC session, a Japanese Olympic official called baseball “so popular in Japan, it could almost be called our national sport.” He also hailed softball’s popularity in Japan.

One Olympic official at the meeting expressed concern over the possibility that no Major League Baseball players would participate in the Olympic baseball competition. MLB is the only professional baseball league that has not agreed to halt its season to allow players to play in the Olympics. All other national baseball leagues, including the Japanese league, have agreed to take breaks.

IOC president Thomas Bach reminded officials at the IOC Session that the approval only confirms the five sports for the 2020 games, and not beyond.