July 8, 2005

Baseball, softball axed from London Games

By Ossian Shine

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - London will stage a reduced Olympic
Games in 2012 after baseball and softball were wiped from the
program in a controversial vote on Friday.

London's showpiece will now feature 26 sports rather than
28 after International Olympic Committee (IOC) members rejected
proposals to replace the axed sports with two from rugby
sevens, golf, squash, karate and roller sports.

Baseball and softball failed to win a majority of votes in
a ballot of members at the IOC Session at the Raffles complex
and became the first sports to be cut from the Games since polo
in 1936.

In a farcical display of bureaucracy, IOC members went
through seven rounds of voting to decide which two of the five
would-be Olympic sports should be put up for a vote to give
them Olympic status.

Having selected squash and karate, the members then
overwhelmingly rejected their bids to join the Olympic program.

The last Olympics to be staged with just 26 sports was
Atlanta in 1996. The minimum number of sports required for an
Olympic Games is 15, while the maximum is 28.

"Today was a decision to put quality over quantity," IOC
communications director Giselle Davies said.

Although London will have two less sports than Beijing in
2008, it is expected the IOC will tweak the program of events
and boost numbers among the events so the Games will be no
smaller than Beijing's.

"It's entirely a matter for the IOC. We're delighted to
deliver a Games with 26 sports. We're happy with the decision,"
London 2012 communications director Mike Lee said.

"There will be some savings through not having temporary
venues in Regents Park but it is not a major consideration.

"We will deliver the Games the IOC want."


Lee said Regents Park will now likely be used to stage
cultural events during the Games period.

In 2002 the IOC capped the number of sports at an Olympic
Games at 28, the number of events at 301 and the number of
athletes at 10,500.

At that same session in Mexico City, IOC President Jacques
Rogge proposed that baseball, softball and modern pentathlon be
dropped, and golf and rugby union added.

However, IOC members resisted and no vote was taken.

"This is payback for Mexico City," a visibly shocked
softball federation chief Don Porter said after his sport's
rejection. "They wanted us out in 2002. It has taken them three
years but they have got us.

"We didn't expect this at all. The discussions we have had
all week led us to believe we were safe to assume the program
would remain unchanged for 2012.

"I don't want to say it's an anti-U.S. thing, but they are
two native American sports."

Baseball federation president Aldo Notari said: "The
problem with baseball is that the best players are not going to
the Olympics Games.

"But baseball is still in Beijing. It is still necessary to
work for the future in 2016," the Italian added.


Rogge urged the two sports not to lose heart. "Needless to
say, these sports will be disappointed," he said. "But this
does not disqualify them forever.

"Olympic sports they are in Beijing, and Olympic sports
they will remain. As such they will remain eligible for the
Olympic program after 2012."

The sports program for 2016 will be voted on after the 2008
Beijing Games.

Once again all Olympics sports -- including softball and
baseball who do not lose their status -- will be put to a vote

IOC members were shocked by the ejections. "I am very
surprised," German member Thomas Bach said. "I did not expect

Australian Olympic Committee chairman John Coates was
saddened by the result. "I'm shocked and disappointed," he
said. "It is very sad to lose two of our member sports.

"Problems with doping in U.S. baseball probably cost the
sport dearly. Softball was a bigger shock especially with the
push within the IOC to further increase women's participation
in the Olympics."