By Tom Degun at The View Tube in London

CastroMay 23 - Antonio Castro, the high-profile vice-president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and son of the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to add the two sports to the 2020 Olympic Games sports programme.

The baseball/softball bid is up against karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard, wushu and now wrestling – with just one eight set to be added to the 2020 Olympics at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires in September.

Next Wednesday (May 29) marks the most crucial stage of the race so fat as all eight will present to the IOC Executive Board at their meeting in St Petersburg, Russia.

Following the presentation, the Executive Board are due to announce which sports will go through to the Session in Buenos Aires, where the full IOC membership will vote on which one will be included for the 2020 Olympics.

Castro, a surgeon by profession, is set to be one of the key figures in the baseball/softball presentation and claimed that both sports should be added to the 2020 Olympic sports programme after being removed from it following Beijing 2008.

baseballBaseball, like softball, last appeared at the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008

"My father, Fidel, once played baseball and went as far organise a game between Cuba and the Baltimore Orioles," Castro told insidethegames here following a visit of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.

"While his career took a different path, he did instil in me a love for the game - and that love has inspired me to work hard to help propel the growth of the game globally.

"Since baseball and softball are a national passion in Cuba, I played when I was young and took an interest in the development of the sport while in medical school.

"My personal commitment has led me to advocate for its growth internationally and I ended up serving in various positions in the International Baseball Federation (IBF)

"Today, I'm a proud member of the World Baseball Softball Confederation team that is pitching to get baseball and softball back in the Olympic Games - our greatest global celebration of humanity and the key to inspiring young people everywhere to take up a sport.

"With 65 million players' worldwide, baseball and softball ranks as the largest sport not on the Olympic programme and from my perspective, it's a game that belongs in the Games because like the Olympic Movement, it unites people across all the borders and boundaries that divide us.

"It's a game anyone, anywhere can play, regardless of age, gender, social standing, disability, cultural or political position.

"It's a worldwide game already - played in more than 100 nations - but it needs the inspiration of the Olympic stage to carry it to the every nation on earth."

Castro, who was chief medical officer for the Cuban Olympic team at London 2012, continued that it was a huge blow for baseball and softball to miss out on the Olympic Games last year because the Games provides the exposure the sport needs to grow.
antonio-castroAntonio Castro, son of the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, is vice-president of the WBSC

"In London last summer, the Olympic Games drew a global television audience of 4.5 million people," he said.

"That's two-thirds of the world's population - and that's the kind of exposure that can help accelerate the growth of baseball and softball into the next great global game.

"What's beautiful about the baseball softball combination we're pitching to the IOC is the balance between men and women in our tournament.

"We're planning two six-day tournaments running back-to-back in a single venue featuring eight teams each, all of whom have to survive a rigorous global qualification process.

"With the men playing baseball the first week of the Games, and the women playing softball the second week, our sport helps the IOC achieve one of its key goals for the Olympic Movement - full gender equity.

"When baseball and softball put down their roots in a country, they become a family-driven, socially rich fan-phenomenon with brand loyalty that lasts a lifetime and is passed from generation to generation - because kids find it so easy to play.

"Perhaps more importantly, the game teaches the incredible lessons of team play.

"Like the Olympic Movement, it places the values of excellence, respect and friendship on a high pedestal - and it teaches that we can achieve far more together than we can separately."

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