TOKYO,(Pakistan Point News - 4th Augst,2016) - Japan on Thursday hailed the return of baseball as an Olympic sport for the 2020 Tokyo Games, fuelling hopes that it would boost its popularity both at home and abroad. Olympic officials on Wednesday reinstated baseball and softball, as well as karate, surfing, skateboarding and climbing for the 2020 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee voted unanimously to include the sports but the decision applies only to the Tokyo Games, where 33 sports will now be contested.
Players and officials of the newly added sports said they hoped the inclusion will help spark public interest in the events and increase the number of participants and fans. Baseball, which originated in the United States, is among the most popular sports in Japan and also has huge followings in Latin America as well as South Korea and Taiwan. But its limited overall global appeal had resulted in its exclusion from the Olympics after 2008, hugely disappointing players and fans alike.
"I am very happy," Norio Ichino, president of Baseball Federation of Japan, which governs the sport's amateur players, told a Tokyo press conference. Nippon Professional Baseball Organisation chief Katsuhiko Kumazawa said he was relieved to hear the decision and pledged to stage a competition in Tokyo that will electrify fans. "I am certain that this will serve as a foundation for young people to have big dreams about baseball and softball," he said.
Despite Japan's proposal to include baseball, international Olympic officials have questioned whether the world's top players, particularly US Major Leaguers, would participate in the Tokyo Olympics. The professional baseball leagues in the United States, Japan and other nations are usually in full swing every summer, which could create scheduling conflicts with the Olympics. Many of the top talents in US Major League Baseball have avoided playing in a quadrennial global baseball competition, the World Baseball Classic, preferring to play in their professional league games for a variety of reasons, including possible injuries.
Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori, speaking at a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, pledged to urge top athletes to compete in Japan. "As the official decision has been made now, the next stage for us as the organising committee is to fully engage with relevant people in the baseball community" to bring the top talents to the Tokyo Games, he said. Karate participants and officials also voiced their delight at the inclusion of the martial art of Japanese origin. "I have no words to express my joy," said Takashi Sasagawa, president of the Japan Karatedo (way of karate) Federation. Sasagawa added karate officials must work so that the sport will remain an Olympic event beyond Tokyo. "There is no guarantee that karate will remain in the Olympics for the 2024 Games," he said. "Our work now is to make sure karate stays for 2024."