OTTAWA-Baseball will return to the Olympic program for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games it was announced today by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after a unanimous vote by the body’s general assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“Having baseball return to the Olympic sport program is great news for our sport and our National Teams program,” said Baseball Canada President, Jason Dickson, who himself was an Olympian in 2004. “With the 2020 Olympics taking place in a baseball rich nation such as Japan, it will in turn enhance the profile of the sport in Canada and around the globe. We are looking forward to the next steps in the process and ultimately building a squad to qualify for the games.”
Surfing, karate, skateboarding and sport climbing join baseball/softball as additions to the 2020 sport program as all five sports received recommendation to be added to the Olympic sport program by the IOC Executive Board earlier this year. Baseball and softball are being added to the Olympic program as one sport after a joint bid by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).
“We applaud the IOC’s decision to include baseball/softball, karate, sports climbing, skateboarding and surfing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Program,” said Tricia Smith, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “It is an important recognition of those sports that have experienced significant growth world-wide and the exceptional athletes who take part in them. These additions will attract millions of new fans around the world to the Olympic Movement. Congratulations to each National Sport Federation, we’ll see you in Tokyo.”
Baseball was a demonstration sport at eight different Olympics before gaining official Olympic sport status for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. In 2005, both baseball and softball were voted out of the games and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the last time that both sports were part of the Olympic sport program.
“Today’s historic decision by the IOC is a ‘home run’ for the Olympics, our sport and the Tokyo 2020 Games,” said WBSC President, Riccardo Fraccari. "Nations competing for the Olympic gold medal in baseball and softball, in Japan, will best showcase the nature and spirit of our global sport – and it will be the most covered and most exciting international baseball/softball tournaments in history, which will help build our case to be featured in future Olympic Games, as well.”
Baseball Canada’s participation at the Olympics dates back to 1984 when a squad was assembled for the Games in Los Angeles where baseball was a demonstration sport. A team was also put together for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, again as a demonstration sport. Baseball became an official Olympic sport in 1992, but Canada failed to qualify for the next three Summer Olympics (1992, 1996, 2000) before qualifying for the 2004 Olympics in Athens where they finished fourth. Canada went on to qualify for the 2008 Olympic baseball competition and ended the tournament in sixth place with a roster that included current big leaguers Brett Lawrie and Michael Saunders.