Baseball, softball out of the 2012 Olympics

Baseball and women's softball remain on the program for the 2008 Beijing Games, and will be eligible to reapply for readmission to the 2016 games.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 22:18 IST

They're out! Baseball and softball won't be played at the 2012 London Olympics. And this time, the call stands. Baseball and women's softball remain on the program for the 2008 Beijing Games, and will be eligible to reapply for readmission to the 2016 games.

London, however, is no longer possible.

"We will work with them at the Olympic Games at Beijing and see if there's a chance to come back in the program" after London, IOC president Jacques Rogge said. "I understand the disappointment of those who pleaded for the reinstatement."

Croatian softball player Jelena Cusak said the decision will cut off crucial funding for youth softball programs around the world. "These kids won't have the Olympic dream any more," she said. "They won't understand this decision. We can't explain it to them. They don't know the politics."

Down to their final chances at the IOC's annual meeting Thursday, neither sport even made it to a vote. Support of at least 51 percent of members was required before reinstatement could go to a secret ballot.

After that, each sport would have needed majority backing in a second vote.

They never got that far: It was 46-42 against baseball and 47-43 against softball in the preliminary round.

US IOC member Anita DeFrantz, who had led efforts for softball's reinstatement, said the sport may have suffered from its perceived association with baseball.

"Baseball and softball are continually presented as a package," she said. "Baseball is my nation's national past time, but softball has no option. For the athletes in softball, if it's not the Olympic Games there is little to look forward to."

The sports were narrowly voted out at the IOC assembly in Singapore in July, becoming the first to be removed from the Olympics since polo in 1936. Softball fell one vote short of making the cut-- 52-52, with one abstention. Baseball was eliminated by a 54-50 vote.

Because no other sports won admission in Singapore, London 2012 is left with 26 sports on the program, two short of the maximum. Baseball and softball can try to get back on the 2016 program at the IOC's session in 2009 in Copenhagen.

Thursday's decision was seen as a political victory for Rogge, who feared that overturning July's vote would damage the IOC's credibility and set a bad precedent.

It was also a setback for US interests in the IOC, which is increasingly dominated by Europeans.

"It's a very difficult decision, not just for our hemisphere but for Asian cultures as well," US member Robert Ctvrtlik said. "There was a solid faction that didn't want the IOC appearing that they would flip on issues."

During a debate before the vote, more than a dozen members _ but only one European _ spoke in favor of bringing the two sports back. Notably, the one who spoke out against was a prominent European -- Crown Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands. "I think anti-Americanism was a factor," International Softball Federation president Don Porter told The Associated Press. "I think that vote was political. It wasn't about a sport. It had do with a political situation to protect the president. It hurts our sport and it hurts our athletes."

International Baseball Federation president Aldo Notari, an Italian, took a philosophical approach.

"Of course, we will try again in 2009," he said. "Life continues. Baseball is out now, but continues to be a very strong sport around the world."

London organizers had planned to build baseball and softball venues in Regent's Park at a cost of around $40 million. London 2012 deputy chairman Keith Mills said Thursday that organizers may still go ahead with softball facilities to leave a "legacy" for the sport.

IOC members from Cuba, Australia, Guatemala, Brazil, Spain, Canada, South Africa and Taiwan were among those speaking in favor of readmitting both sports. Several delegates said the Singapore vote should be overturned because no replacement sports were brought in.

While some members were opposed to reviewing a decision taken just seven months ago, Australian member Kevan Gosper said the IOC should have the courage to do so.

"We should be big enough to review a decision if there is good cause," he said. "I think there is good cause and there should be no embarrassment that we are looking at it so soon." American delegate Jim Easton took part in the vote. In Singapore, he recused himself because of his business interests as a manufacturer of sports equipment.

Citing "very significant changes in my business situation," Easton said he had received clearance from the IOC ethics commission and executive board to vote.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 22:18 IST