For the first time since 2008, baseball will be an Olympic sport. The International Olympic Committee voted Wednesday on a package of sports to be added to the 2020 Olympic Games. The package, which included baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing, passed unanimously.
BREAKING – IOC vote means baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing & skateboarding will take place at 2020 Olympics
— Around the Rings (@AroundTheRings) August 3, 2016
Olympic Baseball and Softball to Return in 2020
Back in June of 2015, the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WSBC) announced that it had officially applied for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games, which will take place in Tokyo, Japan. On June 2 of this year, the IOC announced that it would recommend both sports be added in a vote by the general assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the night before the start of the 2016 Summer Games.
Under the new IOC rules, the local organizers of the games can propose the addition of at least one sport for the Games to be held in their country. Consequently, the approval for the addition of baseball and softball affects only the Games in Japan. The newly added package of sports will at eighteen events to the Games, and will bring the total number of sports for the Tokyo Games to thirty-three. The Games will also feature almost 500 more athletes than usual.
The addition of baseball and softball to the 2020 Games makes a lot of sense. Both are extremely popular in Japan. The Nippon Pro Baseball Organization is one of the largest professional baseball leagues outside of the United States, and many Japanese stars eventually make their way to Major League Baseball. Conversely, some American players eventually wind up playing in Japan.
The Olympics will feature a six-nation tournament for both baseball and softball. The addition of baseball to the games will not have any effect on the 2020 MLB season. The season will not be suspended to allow professional players to compete in the games, which means the American team will most likely be comprised of college players or lesser minor league prospects.