Olympic Day: Baseball and softball have never been as close to the Olympic Movement as today, says WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari

Today -- Olympic Day -- marks precisely one month to go until the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where baseball and softball will make their highly anticipated and spectacular Olympic comebacks.

As the Olympic family and millions of athletes and fans around the world celebrate Olympic Day, we at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) are increasingly proud of the role that we have forged for baseball and softball at the heart of the Olympic Movement.

Tokyo 2020 will be a historic moment in the WBSC’s short but quick-evolving history. We established the WBSC in 2013 as a unified, Olympic-standard International Federation. Since then, our movement has grown at a pace that few could have imagined.

Today we have over 200 active members across all five continents. Professional baseball leagues are also key stakeholders within our organisation with the close and thriving relationship providing valuable opportunities to further enhance and grow our global game.

The WBSC family is united and #StrongerTogether, especially in celebration of what the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 means for baseball and softball and our athletes in the WBSC's continued journey of growth and achievement.

Since our merger, we have worked hard to turn the WBSC into an Olympic IF with Olympic standards in our governance structures, rankings system, anti-doping procedures, qualifying tournaments and revenue generation. Our time away from the field of play due to the pandemic has allowed us to further strengthen our foundations through the establishment of the WBSC Integrity Unit and WBSC Academy.

Having inaugurated our new global headquarters in Pully, Switzerland, last year, and established our permanent presence adjacent to the Olympic capital, Lausanne, our organisation is setup for success and set up to be a strong, reliable partner to the IOC, ASOIF and host cities.

Furthermore, our ability to contribute to a fitter, healthier and more active society was significantly enhanced when Baseball5 was included on the programme for the next edition of the Youth Olympic Games in Dakar in 2026. Our fast-paced, urban and youth-focused discipline requires no equipment and can be played #everywhere. All you need is a ball. Baseball5 will also be the first Olympic team sport to feature mixed-gender teams, which further demonstrates the positive contributions our gender-balanced sport is making to the Olympic Movement.

The Olympic Virtual Series is another key milestone for our sport, which follows the WBSC’s approval last December of formally establishing virtual/eSport baseball and softball as official WBSC disciplines.

The Olympic Virtual Series Baseball Event Finals, which are being streamed worldwide on Olympic Day, are a wonderful occasion to further raise our sports’ profile within the Olympic Movement and and the younger generations.

Our inclusion in the series is an excellent showcase of how the WBSC, with partner KONAMI, has embraced innovation and shown its commitment to the eSport genre. COVID-19 has illustrated the need for sports and federations to be adaptable and flexible, and the WBSC has showcased its ability to do just that.

The WBSC was among five sports/international federations to have been appointed by the IOC to be part of their inaugural Olympic Virtual Series, helping the Olympic Movement reach new audiences, while also encouraging the development of both physical and digital forms of sport in line with the recommendations of the IOC's Olympic Agenda 2020+5.

Today also is timely with the WBSC’s Final Olympic Baseball Qualifier in Mexico just having started. After successfully delivering a spectacular Americas baseball qualifier in Florida earlier this month, through which the USA booked its place at Tokyo 2020, we are now only one team short of confirming the final line-up for baseball’s Olympic return.

Meanwhile, the Australian women’s softball team is already training in Japan in preparation for the opening of sporting competition at Tokyo 2020 when they take on Japan at the Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima on 22 July. The excitement for the Olympics amongst baseball and softball’s global fanbase and players has never been as strong.

As the world begins to emerge from the grips of a devastating pandemic, I have no doubt Tokyo 2020 will provide a source of hope for the future. This is particularly true for our sport, which thanks in no small part to the tireless work of the WBSC’s wonderful sporting family, has an ever-increasingly important role at the heart of the Olympic family.

# # #

Contact: media@wbsc.org

About the World Baseball Softball Confederation

Headquartered in Pully, Switzerland -- adjacent to Lausanne, the Olympic Capital -- the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is the world governing body for baseball and softball. The WBSC has 210 National Federation and Associate Members in 138 countries and territories across Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe and Oceania, which represent a united baseball/softball sports movement that encompasses over 65 million athletes and attracts approximately 150 million fans to stadiums worldwide annually.

The WBSC governs all international competitions involving official National Teams. The WBSC oversees the Premier12, the World Baseball Classic and Baseball World Cups (U-12, U-15, U-18, U-23 and Women's), Softball World Cups, (U-12 Mixed, U-15 Women's, U-18 Women's, U-18 Men's, U-23 Men's, Women's and Men's), and official disciplines Baseball5 (Senior and Youth World Cups) and E-Sports as well as Baseball, Softball and Baseball5 events at the Olympic Games.

For more information, visit www.wbsc.org, which is available in six languages: English, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Traditional Chinese.

Your best source of news about the Olympics is www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only