(ATR) The Final Olympic Baseball Qualifier has been reduced to three teams following Australia's withdrawal.
"We regret it but we have to go on," World Baseball Softball Confederation president Riccardo Fraccari tellsAround the Rings.
The former Australian Major League Baseball player Glenn Williams never thought he would have to announce the unpleasant decision just starting in his new position as executive director of the Australian Baseball Federation.
"Attending the Final Olympic Qualifier in a COVID world would always present significant challenges," Williams said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We worked through multiple options and scenarios, but the logistical challenges of providing a safe environment for the group were insurmountable."
"The planning for Taiwan was extensive and with the late change of location and dates, those plans became obsolete," said Williams, who was a member of the Australian team that won the silver medal at Athens 2004 after losing the final to Cuba.
Originally this World Pre-Olympic was to be held in Taichung, Chinese Taipei, but a sudden outbreak of Covid-19 in Taiwan forced the Asian nation's baseball authorities to give up on continuing to organize the tournament a month ago.
Despite the short time to stage the event, Mexico stepped up and will hold the tournament in Puebla from June 22-26.
Unfortunately, Chinese Taipei - ranked fourth in the WBSC rankings - also announced last week that it would not send its national team to Mexico due to the epidemiological situation.
Australia, in sixth place, was then the highest-ranked team in the international rankings among the four teams to participate in the Puebla Pre-Olympic.
Now the battle for the sixth and final Olympic ticket will focus on Venezuela, the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic, the eighth, ninth and tenth ranked teams.
Williams said that even if Australia had won the event, time would not allow the team to complete the mandatory two weeks in hotel quarantine upon returning home and then meet the "entry requirements" for the Tokyo Games which open on July 23.
WBSC explained that the three teams will now begin the tournament on a round-robin basis. The first-place finisher advances directly to the final. The second and third place finishers will face each other in a playoff match for the other place in the final.
The Dominican Republic and Venezuela finished second and third behind the United States at the recent Americas Olympic Qualifier while the Netherlands finished second at the Europe/Africa Pre-Olympic in September 2019.
The five qualifiers for the Olympic tournament in Tokyo are Japan, the United States, Mexico, South Korea and Israel.
Written and reported by Miguel Hernandez
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