Even though the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games are still two years away, the 2012 London Games are well into the complex stages of planning. Venues are in the process of construction, staff and volunteers are being hired, and potential Olympic contenders are training for the future trials. But a few things will be different about the London Games compared to the Beijing Olympics. Several sports have been kept off the program, including women’s fastpitch softball.
Women’s fastpitch is still considered an Olympic sport and will remain part of the 2008 Beijing Games, but it was ousted from the 2012 London Olympics by only one vote in August 2005. The mere losing margin prompted supporters to demand a re-vote for softball’s inclusion. But at the 118th International Olympic Committee Session in Torino this past February, all hope was crushed when the vote for reconsideration was shot down 47-43 (with two abstentions).
The move against re-evaluation is seen by many, including International Softball Federation (ISF) president Don E. Porter, as one based on politics, not sports. Americans are not the only ones who feel that way, however. The February 10 edition of the French paper L’Equipe says that it was not a decision based on sport, but rather a political move.
Fastpitch softball was not the only sport axed from the 2012 Olympic Games; so were baseball and women’s double-trap shooting. It was the first time in 69 years that sports were eliminated from the Olympics. For new sports to be added, some have to be eliminated. But it makes no sense to eliminate certain sports, such as women’s fastpitch, while keeping ones with fewer participants.
Women’s fastpitch has faced much criticism over the years. To a lot of people, softball is still seen simply as men’s baseball. Though there are plenty of similarities between the two, fastpitch softball is an entirely separate sport. People like Mr. Porter believe this misunderstanding has led to a lack of support for Olympic fastpitch softball.
Along with the ISF, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) are rallying to get softball back in the games. Everyday citizens are also working hard for the cause.
Savesoftball.com, started by 11 year old Jamie Gray, has an electronic petition for people to sign if they want softball back in the Olympics. The next chance for reinstatement comes in 2009. At the International Olympic Committee meeting, supporters can once again plead for fastpitch softball to be put back in the 2016 Games.
There is no national or international league for women’s fastpitch. Players do not make money every time they take the field or swing the bat. When college players graduate, games and tournaments typically come to an end. But one avenue still remains in the minds of the girls who dedicate a large part their lives to the sport. To play in the Olympics and represent their country is the ultimate goal for all die-hard players.
If members of the International Olympic Committee wanted to punish the United States, their actions were certainly less than brilliant. Not only have they crushed the hopes and dreams of thousands of American players, but also the dreams of the millions of girls and women from around the world. Despite what many believe, women’s fastpitch is not just an American sport. One hundred and thirteen countries are members of the International
Softball Federation and 16 international teams competed in this year’s Women’s World Championship with numerous other countries on the waiting list. The Women’s World Championship is the official Olympic Test Event for women’s fastpitch and this year qualified four teams for the Beijing Games.