A decision on whether or not to drop baseball, softball, and the modern pentathlon from Olympic competition has been postponed until after the 2004 Games, thus ensuring that all three sports will continue through at least 2008. This is a good thing.
After 10-minute presentations to the assembly by leaders of the three endangered sports, dozens of rank-and-file IOC members took the floor to question the whole process and push for a postponement.
Of the 39 speakers, not a single one spoke in favor of the proposals to cut the sports.
''It is urgent to wait,'' Senegalese member Youssoupha Ndiaye said in a statement that summed up much of the 2½-hour debate.
[IOC President Jacques Rogge, who pushed the reduction,] then conferred with his executive board and submitted a proposal to put off any deletion of sports until after Athens.
Of the 117 attending members, only two raised their hands against the postponement, while four abstained. On a separate motion, the members approved the ''general principles'' of the IOC's review of the sports program.
The last sport dropped from the Summer Olympics was polo in 1936, and IOC members made clear they had no desire for radical change now.
The IOC program commission recommended in August that the three sports be cut from the Beijing Olympics. The report cited lack of global popularity, high venue costs and, in the case of baseball, the absence of top major league players.
All three sports have hopes now that this issue has gone away. In the case of baseball, there's an obvious step that can be taken to ensure its continued inclusion:
Baseball federation chief Aldo Notari of Italy noted that he had proposed reducing the Olympic tournament from 11 days to five days, a move which would improve the chances of major-leaguers taking part.
''The fact that the best athletes are not included in the games -- this definitely will be solved by Beijing,'' he insisted.
Removing his sport from the Olympics would be ''the end of baseball as a world sport,'' Notari said.
Israeli member Alex Gilady criticized Major League Baseball for failing to release top players for the Olympics.
''Major League Baseball so far is part of the problem and not part of the solution,'' he said. ''If the Olympics is so important to them, they can show us.''
If there's one thing we learned in the 2002 season, it's that the All-Star Game really does mean nothing. I haven't watched it in years. I would definitely tune in to the Olympics to see MLB's best play for their home countries. With so many talented players coming from various Latin American nations, there'd be no guarantee of a US win, either. Major League Baseball and the Games would both benefit in the TV ratings.
The logistics can be made to work. The All-Star break is three days. Extend it to a week to allow for travel and the five day Olympic tournament. The time can be made up by scheduling a few doubleheaders or (heaven forfend) reducing the schedule back to 154 games. The Olympics occur later in the year than the All-Star Game usually does, but they still occur during the summer, before pennant races have really kicked in.
This is such a win-win. It needs to happen.Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 30, 2002 to Baseball | TrackBack