By James Crook

85457883July 26 - Antonio Castro, the son of Cuba's former leader Fidel, has hailed the baseball friendship series between Cuba and the United States for encouraging unity through sport in the same spirit as the Olympics, claiming its success has made officials even more determined to get the sport back on the Games programme.

The historic series saw the Cuban national baseball team compete on Anerican soil for the first time in 17 years against the USA Baseball Collegiate national team, and Castro, who served as a surgeon and doctor for the Cuba team at the London 2012 Games, believes that the spirit on show in the series reflects the values, ideals and internationalism of the Olympic Movement as identified by founding father Pierre de Coubertin.

"This friendship series was a celebration of the cultural diversity, of goodwill, respect and all that is excellent in sport, which we absolutely find in the spirit of the Olympic Games," said Castro, who has played a key role in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) campaign to get baseball and softball back on the Olympic programme for 2020.

"During the series, the athletes spoke the same language through baseball; they respected the same rules; they respected and admired each other.

"No interpretations were necessary.

"The Olympic platform does this on a worldwide scale; sport has that power."

Antonio-Castro-in-LondonWBSC vice-President Castro travelled to the UK in May and vowed to youngsters that the Confederation "will fight for your Olympic dreams"

The series, which concluded earlier this week, has re-stoked the desire of officials to bring baseball and softball back to the Olympics according to Castro, a vice-president of the WBSC, who revealed to insidethegames earlier this year that his father's love of baseball and the passion for the game instilled in him had inspired him to give his all to encourage the development of the game on a global scale.

"The Olympic Games is the greatest global celebration of humanity and sport, and the key to inspiring more young people everywhere to become involved in sport and advance the movement," he said.

USA Baseball chief executive officer and WBSC Executive Board member Paul Seiler echoed the comments of his colleague.

"We have seen baseball and softball captivate entire nations, and we feel our sport could serve to strengthen the Olympic Games because like the Olympic Movement, baseball and softball can unite citizens across all the borders and boundaries that divide us, as we have seen with this historic Cuba-USA baseball friendly series," he said.

USA-vs-Cuba-Cary-636x358The friendship series between the USA and Cuba was the first time the Cubans had competed on US soil in 17 years

The vision of the WBSC is to nurture the development of the sports even further on a global scale, and expanding markets in China, Africa, India, South America and Europe have shown encouraging signs of progress in recent years, with the sister sports now boasting over 65 million players worldwide, according to the WBSC.

"Baseball and softball are games that anyone, anywhere can play, regardless of their age, gender, social standing, disability, cultural or political position," said Castro.

"It's a worldwide game already played in more than 140 nations."

Baseball-softball are up against squash and wrestling to gain a place on the Olympic programme from 2020, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make their decision at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires on September 8.

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