September 1 - Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh has thrown his weight behind the baseball-softball bid for inclusion to the Olympic Games from 2020 as the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) staged the six-day World Children's Baseball Fair Youth Baseball Educational Clinic and Friendship Games in Fukui.
More than 130 children from 13 countries across five continents were represented at the 23rd World Children's Baseball Fair as the WBSC once again displayed their commitment to youth sport and promoting health, physical fitness, education and social benefits through sport.
Oh, who founded the World Children's Baseball Foundation that conceived the event with another of the sport's icons, Hank Aaron, explained why he felt that baseball-softball would be the best fit for the Olympic Movement, whilst also speaking of the prospect of an Olympic return for the sports in his home city of Tokyo, who are up against Istanbul and Madrid to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"As Tokyo bids to host the 2020 Olympic Games, and as baseball and softball campaign to be added to the Olympic programme for 2020, I wanted to offer my support to WBSC's campaign and strong efforts," said Oh, who holds the world record for most home runs, amassing 868 throughout his 22-year career with the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants.
"If Tokyo wins the honour to host the Olympic Games in 2020, I believe baseball and softball competitions will deliver the peak of Olympic sport, capturing the full attention of our entire nation and others around the world.
"The electrifying atmosphere of Japan playing at home for the gold medal would give the ballplayers and the fans the most unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Japan were the last Olympic gold medallists in softball when the sport last appeared at the Games at Beijing 2008, and Japan's premier baseball league, the Nippon Baseball League, have been a constant supporter of the WBSC campaign to get the bat-and-ball sports back onto the Olympic programme.
Oh believes that this latest pitch, the second attempt from both sports to re-gain a place on the Olympic sports programme, is stronger than its predecessors due to the rapid rise of the game on a global scale.
"If the Games go to Europe, baseball and softball's continual rise there and their strengthening worldwide emergence will ensure there is excitement and spectator interest that will build further to 2020 and beyond," he said.
"There has been tremendous progress in the Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, with other great European countries growing baseball and softball cultures.
"And who could have imagined only five years ago that National Teams from Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia and the Ukraine would be represented in World Championships today?
"That's why I believe every major league around the world should find a way to make its best players available for the Olympic Games - and that is why I believe baseball and softball would be the IOC's (International Olympic Committee) best choice on September 8 in Buenos Aires."
Oh spent the duration of his playing career with the Giants, boasting a .301 career batting average and securing back-to-back triple crowns in 1973 and 1974, also earning the Most Valuable Player award on nine occasions.
The IOC are due choose which of the three sports still in contention- baseball-softball, squash and wrestling- will gain a place on the Olympic programme from 2020 on September 8 in Buenos Aires.
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