(ATR) The Final Baseball Qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games moves from Chinese Taipei to Mexico due to the unexpected epidemiological situation in the Asian nation.
The president of the WBSC, the Italian Riccardo Fraccari, confirmed the announcement to Around the Rings on Thursdayand revealed that for five days he had been in the process of finding a new headquarters while restrictions were tightened in Taiwan due to the increase in COVID cases.
The most recent of the regulations prohibited the entry to the island of travelers without resident visas until June 18, which hampered the development of the event that was to be held at the Taichung Intercontinental Stadium from June 16.
The decision to change the venue was confirmed after a virtual emergency meeting with the WBSC Executive Committee and after consultations with the Mexican authorities led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a lover of baseball.
"It was a headache for five days but finally we resolved it," confessed Fraccari, who hopes to arrive in Florida on May 30 for the Pre-Olympic Tournament of the Americas that opens the next day in Palm Beach and St Lucie counties and will award the fifth Olympic ticket to the winner.
Now in Mexico the sixth and final Olympic ticket will be awarded by a tournament including the second and third place teams from the Florida qualifying round, along with Chinese Taipei, Australia and the Netherlands. China pulled out of the event earlier this month.
Mexico is one of four countries already qualified, thanks to its performance at the Premier 12 tournament in Japan in November 2019.
The dates and places for the Mexico qualifier are not yet defined.
"We have pending conversations with the Mexican Baseball League that begins its season this Friday," warned Fraccari.
The new dates could be conditional on the possibilities that the two teams from the Americas who get into the World Qualifier can travel directly from the United States to Mexico at the close of the Florida tournament on June 5.
"We will fix the days soon," commented Fraccari.
In a statement, the WBSC reported that after consultations with the medical and governmental authorities and the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) and the Chinese Taipei Professional Baseball League (CPBL), the WBSC Executive had ratified the change of venue.
"The WBSC and the entire international baseball community would like to thank our great hosts in Mexico for 'stepping up' to host this important tournament and welcome the teams in such a short time," said Fraccari.
The European director praised the position of the Olympic athletics runner-up and General Director of the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sports (CONADE) Ana Gabriela Guevara and President López Obrador, whom he recalled is the WBSC Global Ambassador.
Coincidentally, this Thursday morning López Obrador dedicated his traditional press conference to sports development plans that his government hopes to apply especially in athletics, boxing and baseball and praised the Mexican Olympic team's qualification in baseball (men) and softball (women).
Fraccari also thanked Taiwan "for doing everything possible" to save the event there.
"I trust that everything will be solved," the WBSC president finally told ATR, referring to the visa process for the Cuban delegation to the Florida pre-Olympic tournament. This Wednesday players and officials were interviewed at the United States embassy in Havana and it is expected that they will have their permits soon.
Homepage Photo: WBSC
Written and reported by Miguel Hernandez
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