TOKYO – Newly elected International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach delighted baseball-mad Japan Wednesday by saying that his organisation will discuss the sport’s possible reinstatement for the 2020 Tokyo summer Games.
Baseball, passionately followed in Japan as the king of sports, and its sibling softball were dropped after the 2008 Beijing Olympics by the IOC, which cited their lack of global appeal among other reasons.
“I’m personally open for more flexibility in the programme of the Olympic Games,” said Bach, who succeeded Jacques Rogge as IOC president in September when Tokyo was chosen over Madrid and Istanbul to host the 2020 summer Games.
“But I still have to see what my colleagues in the IOC are thinking about this,” he told a news conference.
The IOC under Rogge picked wrestling in preference to baseball and softball — packaged as one sport to improve the chances of reinstatement — and squash as an additional 28th sport on the 2020 programme.
Bach, a former Olympic and world fencing champion from Germany, said the baseball issue would be discussed by the IOC executive board on December 4, and by the full IOC membership in the Russian resort of Sochi in February, when the winter Games are staged there.
Bach, 59, was visiting Tokyo to muster support from political and business circles for the 2020 event.
The question of which sports will be contested should be decided seven years before an Olympics, according to the Olympic charter.
Bach, however, said the seven-year rule can be changed by an IOC vote.
Before his arrival in Tokyo this week, an IOC mission held a seminar there to advise on preparations. Tokyo is due to set up its organising committee in February.
“Having seen Japanese society really being united in this bid, we are sure that this unity will continue and ensure brilliant Games in 2020,” Bach said.
At a meeting later Wednesday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Bach said he was “strongly convinced” that the Tokyo Olympics would be a success, according to officials.
Abe replied that Japan had been acting in unison to make the Games a success.
In the evening the IOC hosted a reception attended by more than 200 political and business leaders including Hakubun Shimomura, the education and sports minister who is in charge of the Olympics, and Toyota Motor president and CEO Akio Toyoda.