July 14 - International Softball Federation (ISF) President and World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) co-President Don Porter has vowed to do all he can to make up for the pain of the bat and ball sports being dropped from the Olympic programme.
Speaking here at the World Cup of Softball, which is being broadcast in 140 nations worldwide on the ESPN network and garnering great exposure for the WBSC campaign to get back onto the programme, Porter spoke of how the shattered hopes of so many young softball and baseball players across the world to play at an Olympics has spurred him on to give everything in his quest to get the sports back on the programme.
"When softball was dropped from the Olympic programme at the 2005 IOC [International Olympic Committee] session in Singapore, I felt that I had really let our athletes down, I really felt we did everything we could but I guess we didn't," Porter told insidethegames.
"Following the decision to drop our sport as well as baseball, I received literally hundreds and hundreds of emails from young girls from all over the world, not just in North America but all over the world, that were very upset and disappointed that their Olympic dreams had been taken away.
"I kept getting these emails, I got them for quite a long time, five, six hundred or more that I have in a box on my desk, and I leave it there to remind me that we have got to try our best and do whatever we can do to bring the dream back.
"And that's really a personal thing that I felt that's what we needed to do and I guess that's one of the reasons that I didn't give up on it, and a lot of other people too."
The invitational World Cup of Softball, which is being contested this year between five of the top national teams in the world from the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia and Japan, has provided an excellent opportunity for exposure for the WBSC PlayBall 2020 campaign.
The initiative has been embraced by fans and players alike, with the players showing their support by donning WBSC temporary tattoos during matches, and supporters being urged to get behind the campaign with leaflets, banners and announcements throughout the tournament.
And with plenty of other events coming up, the WBSC is determined to take advantage in order to strengthen its campaign as much as possible before the decision on which sport will be added to the Olympic programme from 2020 onwards is made at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires on September 7.
"This is just one of many events that we've had this year," Porter explained.
"We've had the World Championships, and we also have the Canada Cup next week, the World Games in Cali, Colombia, later this month, the World Masters Games in Torino, Italy, and a lot of regional championships, as a matter of fact right now in Europe the women's European Championships are going on, and there'll be the South-East Asian Championships next month.
"These are all events that we want to make sure that there's an interest and a focus so that we can show the IOC that our sport is really involved competitively and that we have many events going on, that we have a lot of people playing all over the world, similar to baseball, and we want to show that we have events that aren't just like this event here, but these multisport Games in which we are in with other sports."
The World Cup of Softball is set to conclude today with the final games, beginning with the "Pink Game" between the US and Puerto Rico, with athletes wearing pink coloured uniforms to raise money and awareness for cancer in women.
The bronze medal match and the final will bring the curtain down on a tournament that has seen tremendous support from fans here in the US and worldwide on television, as well as plenty of upsets and entertainment along the way.
And now with just 56 days to go before squash, wrestling and baseball-softball find out their Olympic fate in Buenos Aires, the race for the final spot on the programme is sure to get even more fiercely-contested.
"We are going to continue our efforts," said Porter.
"We are probably the largest sport that's not on the current Olympic programme in terms of numbers, and we think that baseball has the economic numbers in the revenues that they bring in through television, events and sponsorship, and softball has a great gender equity side with women, and those are all the things we have combined together to make it what the IOC has asked each of the sports; 'what added value do you bring to the Olympic programme?' and we feel all those things are part of it."
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