Update: Unfortunately, I was correct, and softball will not be included in the 2016 Olympiad. I leave this article untouched, though, because it does provide the reader with areas that International Softball should focus if it is to get into future Olympic games.
In 2005, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted Women’s Fastpitch Softball out of the Olympic Games for 2012. The International Softball Federation’s (ISF) BackSoftball campaign has worked for Softball’s inclusion in the 2016 Olympics. BackSoftball developed a 10-step blueprint to help further internationalize the sport, and thereby diffuse the perception that Fastpitch Softball is a North American-dominated sport.
The IOC’s Executive Board will vote tomorrow, 13 August 2009, on which two new sports of seven finalists (baseball, golf, karate, rollersports, rugby, softball and squash) will be included in the 2016 Olympics. The two sports it endorses will be formally voted into the Olympics when the full IOC meets in October. To assess Softball’s Olympic Chances, this article examines the 10 steps of BackSoftball’s blueprint . If BackSoftball achieves its goals, Softball has a very strong case for Olympiad inclusion.
BackSoftball’s 10 step Blueprint, Step 1: Increase the number of nations playing Softball.
The stated goal is to increase the number of National Softball Federations (NSF) from 128 to 150 by October 2009. It does not appear that this goal was reached. In fact, according to a BackSoftball press release dated 16 February 2009, there are only 127 NSF.
Step 2: Increase Number of Worldwide Participants Playing Softball.
Step 2’s specific goal is to increase the number of softball players from “8.4 million to an estimated 12.5 million” by October 2009. Estimating the number of fastpitch players in the world has been problematic; indeed, no press release from BackSoftball addresses the number of players worldwide. Had this goal been reached, surely it would have been reported.
Step 3: Increase Number of Youth Accessing Sport Through Softball
As with step 2, there is no data to determine whether this goal, specifically that each NSF increases the number of participants aged 15 years and younger, has been met. Again, no news may not mean good news, as any progress toward this goal would have been touted.
Step 4: Place Even Greater Emphasis on Opportunities for Women in Sport.
The emphasis is on expansion in the Middle East, and this goal has been met. At least 15 cities in Iran promote Fastpitch Softball for women, and Jordanian Prince Feisal Al Hussein established the Generations for Peace program to promote Softball within the region.
Step 5: Provide Even Greater Worldwide Access to People with Disabilities
Softball is a sport for the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Olympics.
Step 6: Provide Softball Equipment / Coaching Where There is Most Need
This goal has been met. Examples include equipment donated to Generations for Peace camps in Jordan and Abu Dhabi, $100K given to the African Softball Counsel for equipment, and donating equipment to six Dominican Republic softball camps.
Step 7: Increase the Amount of Worldwide Television the Sport Enjoys
Step 7’s target is to increase free worldwide television coverage of the sport by 25%. While the specific percentage increase has not been reported, in the June the World Cup of Softball was broadcast to 146 countries. It seems that this goal has been at least partially met.
Step 8: Increase the number of dedicated Softball Federations
The goal is to establish NSF in their own right in countries where softball is administered by other organizations. As with Step 1, no progress with has been reported in any BackSoftball 2009 press release.
Step 9: Achieve Even Greater Inclusion and Internationalization in the ISF
This goal was at least partially achieved when IOC Member and President of the Gambian Softball Federation, Beatrice Allen, joined ISF Council earlier this year.
Step 10: BackSoftball Campaign to be conducted in True Spirit of Olympism
Here, Softball makes its strongest case for inclusion in the 2016 games. Softball is congruent with Olympic ideals, such as no positive drug or doping test in the 30 years it has been part of the international scene and a third of the ISF’s Executive Board are women. Perhaps most importantly, Softball guarantees that every Olympiad will include the very best players in the world, as Olympic participation is the pinnacle of the sport in every player’s eyes.
This analysis of the BackSoftball Campaign reveals that 6 of the 10 goals have been at least partially met. Alarmingly, the first three goals which directly measure the worldwide spread of the sport have not been met. Hopefully this will not be a deal breaker with the IOC Executive Board tomorrow. Unfortunately, Softball’s chances may depend more on the struggles of the other six sports vying for inclusion than on making its own air-tight case.
A request for interview with ISF Director of Communications Bruce Wawrzyniak was not answered.