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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The balls and strikes will return to the Olympic Games

Por Fidel Orihuela

The Olympic Games celebrated in Beijing, 2008, were a bittersweet moment for the masculine baseball and the feminine softball, sports that lived emotional championships in the Chinese city but that faced the harsh reality of knowing they were out of the Olympic scenarios for the future. The duration of the games and the low popularity these sports had in the coming homes of the next Olympics (London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016) doomed the two sports disciplines, that have now been favored by the tradition and the strength these sports seem to have in Japan, a country in which they have always been quite popular.

Their return will be as guests in Tokyo 2020, with exhibition tournaments that will be exciting for sure due to that fact that baseball is a passion in that city while softball keeps gathering fans after having won six World Championships in a row in the last sixteen years. As is only logical, the Japanese teams have their presence secured in the two events for being the home of the games but the other spots to participate will be only gained in exigent classification tournaments that will give only five additional spots. Baseball, for instance, will have its starting point at the Premier 12, the world class event that takes place every two years with the best 12 countries around the world. In that Championship the teams from America and Asia/Oceania, the geographic regions with the most power in the planet, will be able to secure a spot.

After that, there will be three other opportunities to classify, and each time the teams will have a chance to get a spot to participate. In America, there will be 8 teams trying to get the spot, while the other five best teams in Europe and the African champion will fight for another place in a combined eliminatory. Finally, there will be an intercontinental classification, in which the last spot to get to Tokyo 2020 will be discussed. The teams attending that final opportunity will be the teams that were second and third in the Pre Olympics of the Americas, the runner-ups of the Asian Championship and the second place of the tournament that took place between Africa and Europe and the champion of the regional tournament of Oceania.

The feminine softball teams will discuss their spots at the World Championship that will take place from the 2 to the 12 of August, 2018, in Chiba, Japan. The championship in America will give two spots for the games in Tokyo while the two remaining places will be discussed in the regional championships in Africa/Europe and Asia/Oceania. After the next Olympic Games in Japan, both baseball and softball will face the hard task of remaining in the Olympic program for Paris 2024, but they will have a good opportunity to come back for the games that will take place in Los Angeles 2028, taking into account the tradition these sports have in the United States.