(ATR) The WBSC’s bid for inclusion on the Paris 2024 sports program has gained momentum following meetings in the French capital.
The confederation’s 2024 Olympic aspirations were a key discussion point on the agenda of the second day of its executive board meeting Saturday at the headquarters of the French Olympic Committee.
"This is an exciting time for our sport, working together with the French Federation of Baseball and Softball to cement our place on the Olympic Programme," WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari said in a statement.
"With our Olympic comeback already confirmed at Tokyo 2020, we feel we are in an ideal position to showcase our strengths looking forward to Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028."
Fraccari met with French sports minister Laura Flessel at the ministry’s headquarters on Friday to discuss the development of baseball and softball in France and to push the case for the sports’ inclusion at the 2024 Games.
French Baseball and Softball Federation chief Didier Seminet and IOC executive board member and WBSC vice president Willi Kaltschmitt were among those in attendance.
"It was a very fruitful meeting," said Fraccari. "Madame Flessel expressed a keen interest in further developing baseball and softball in France. She is willing to see stronger national teams and develop better facilities."
France is currently ranked 23rd in the world in baseball and 24th in softball.
Fraccari said that Flessel, who is originally from Guadeloupe, a French oversea territory in the Caribbean, was "impressed" by the Association of Francophone countries within WBSC.
Tokyo 2020 Qualification
The executive board also signed off on the qualification system for the six-team baseball and softball events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Four baseball and four softball tournaments will qualify national teams for the Games. The first opportunity is the WBSC’s flagship event, Premier12, in November 2019 where two Olympic spots will be awarded.
"The eight competitions to get into Tokyo 2020 promise to deliver some of the most exciting and meaningful international baseball and softball games ever seen," said Fraccari.
"As the biggest sport in Japan, the historic return of Olympic baseball and softball is expected to make a major buzz and be a magical experience for the athletes and spectators alike, so we can expect that millions around the world will have their sights set on Tokyo 2020 and do whatever they can to be a part of it."
The WBSC said the Premier12’s top finishers from the Americas and Asia/Oceania (excluding hosts Japan) will earn direct entries into Tokyo 2020 without having to pass through qualifiers. The top 12 nations in the final 2018 WBSC world rankings will compete in the Premier12 competition.
The Africa/Europe Olympic baseball qualification will be a six-team tournament, with the winner earning a place at Tokyo 2020. The Americas Olympic qualifier is an eight-team tournament, the winner advancing to the Tokyo Games. This will bring together all the continent’s representatives from the Premier12 competition that did not qualify for Tokyo 2020.
An intercontinental baseball qualifier will decide the last place at the Tokyo Olympics.
For softball, the first opportunity to qualify for Tokyo 2020 will be this August at the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship 2018 in Chiba, Japan. The WBSC is also running qualifying tournaments for the other continents.
The WBSC Executive Board discussed establishing Baseball5 as WBSC’s third official discipline alongside baseball and softball, with a decision made to explore opportunities for its development.
Base, the in-house company that will manage WBSC media and sponsorship rights, is also to be launched.
Two new national federation members and an associate member were approved. They are set to be ratified at the next WBSC Congress.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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