Tonight is the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where athletic representatives in 28 sports from 205 countries will come together for the chance to take home the gold.
We’ll hear heart-warming stories of triumph over tragedy, the painstaking road traveled for the chance to honor one’s family and country, the power of the human spirit.
We’ll see teammates come together in overwhelming embraces of victory, and we’ll see grown men crumple in tears of defeat. It’s a truly exciting time for competitors and viewers alike.
In between the personal interviews and the fuzzy-lensed pseudo-biographies, be sure to pay special attention to this year’s Games, viewers, because at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the 28-sport listing will be short two events.
After a top secret ballot held by International Olympic Committee (IOC) members to determine which sports to axe from the existing list of games, softball and baseball didn’t earn enough votes to keep them in the lineup.
Softball. And Baseball.
These are the first sports to be cut from the Olympics since polo was ousted in 1936, yet synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are still going strong.
The main argument against softball is that it doesn’t have the wide appreciation and participation that other sports have; and while baseball’s lack of substantial appeal in much of the world was a factor (apparently despite its presence in America, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Italy, and several Latin American and European nations), more important is baseball’s failure to reach an agreement with Major League Baseball that would send top players to the Olympics.
Let’s face it, the 30-team U.S. league won’t shut down its April-October season so top talent can attend the Games. Further claims state that the two sports are too similar, which also resulted in their downfall.
If this is true and the two sports are too much alike, then it seems that between the two, removing softball would be the obvious choice. After all, historically speaking, baseball was first, and therefore has seniority.
So how could a sport with such a wide following and so much popularity not be included in the Olympics, the Mecca of all sporting events? Is the MLB scheduling issue big enough to remove the entire sport from the Games? If the NHL can work it out during the winter games, why can’t baseball take a break for the summer games?
Unfortunately, because of the seasonal nature of baseball and the high priority its fans place on the integrity of major-league statistics from one season to the next, it would be more difficult to accommodate such a break in MLB.
Okay, so pro players can’t make it. But baseball was introduced to the Olympics in 1992, and pro players didn’t participate until 2000. Why not keep the sport in the Games and invite non-pro players to attend? Then again, the Olympics are supposed to be the events for the top athletes in their field, the best of the best. After all, the Olympic motto is Citius Altius Fortius (swifter, higher, stronger). By not including pro athletes, are we giving the sport of baseball a handicap? Would they be the best of the worst?
The plan for now is that baseball is definitely out for 2012, but each year, voting among the IOC will take place to determine whether it will be allowed back into the Games. 2016 could be its year, since the Olympics may be held in baseball hotbeds Tokyo or Chicago. Even with no hope of MLB talent playing at the Games, U.S. Olympic baseball general manager Bob Watson is confident the American pastime will be voted back in next year. So there’s still hope.
Until then, you may want to start reading up on the strategy of ribbon dancing.
So what do you think? Should baseball be included in the Olympics, or does the scheduling conflict with the MLB make an effective case?
Magnolia Hempstead is a contributing writer for Studyofsports.com