Tokyo (AFP) – Baseball bosses expressed confidence Friday they would be able to entice Japanese organisers to include the sport in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as they bid against seven short-listed rivals.
The joint bid of baseball and softball, widely considered a favourite, was among those presenting to Tokyo officials in the hope of being recommended to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the end of September.
Karate, bowling, climbing, squash, surfing, wushu and roller sports are also bidding to be selected when the IOC makes its decision before next year’s Rio Olympics.
But in baseball-mad Japan, the sport — dropped from the Olympics along with softball after the 2008 Beijing Games — would be a money-spinner for Tokyo organisers, worth an estimated $50 million in ticket sales.
“We stressed the value added by having them on the programme,” International Baseball Federation chief Riccardo Fraccari told reporters, confirming talks were underway to coax North American Major League players to take part in the Olympics.
“Discussions are going on with Major League Baseball and we are confident our proposition will allow them to send professional players to Tokyo.”
Bowling officials, meanwhile, admitted they still have work to do to change public perception of their sport as overweight American cartoon character Homer Simpson’s idea of a workout.
“There is an image issue,” World Bowling president Kevin Dornberger told AFP.
“A lot of people think of bowling as guys drinking beer on a Friday night and throwing a few balls down the line. I have no problem with that.
“The perception is a thorn and a rose at the same time,” he added.
“But that isn’t the sport of bowling. It’s a very athletic sport. Twelve million people in Japan bowl — the second most in the world outside of the United States.”
In contrast, surfing is banking on its “sex appeal” to win over organisers, with the option of implementing cutting-edge artificial wave technology.
“There are 35 million surfers around the world,” said Fernando Aguerre, head of the sport’s world governing body.
“Surfing is fun, it’s sexy and it has great celebrity appeal. Being a surfer is cool.”
Climbing also flagged up its rugged, windswept image, while the roller sports federation promised NBA-style razzmatazz.
Under the Olympic reforms approved last December, the IOC has abolished the cap of 28 sports for the Summer Games while maintaining a limit of 10,500 athletes and 310 medal events. Host cities are permitted to propose one or more additional events.
“After winning eight squash world titles, the Olympics is the pinnacle of any sport,” said women’s world number one Nicol David.
“Every player dreams of playing in the Olympics. It would be the highlight of my career.”
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