Japan's victory in the Women's Baseball World Cup has added to the growing public support for baseball and softball's inclusion at Tokyo 2020, it has been claimed by officials pushing for the sports to be reintroduced to the Olympic programme.
The match was the culmination of a 24-game tournament in Miyazaki where eight nations competed for the biggest crown in women's baseball.
The competition opened with a record-breaking attendance of 14,500 fans on September 1, with similar support in the gold-medal finale.
World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari claimed the deep love for the bat-and-ball sports in Japan could be seen again throughout the latest tournament with record crowds and strong broadcast and online viewing audiences demonstrating the added excitement and passion that softball and baseball could bring to Tokyo 2020.
Fraccari claimed he was encouraged that a more flexible approach to the inclusion of sports at the Olympics was under consideration by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is expected to be discussed at a special IOC session on December 8 and 9 in Monaco paving the way possibly for more sports and disciplines at the Games.
"Baseball and softball are the two most important and popular national sports in Japan and hold a special place in Japanese society and history," he said.
"The presence of baseball and softball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would help inspire and draw the attention of millions of fans, young people, women and communities across Japan and around the world - helping to further position the Olympic Games as the greatest show on earth.
"This can serve to enhance the legacy of Tokyo 2020 and the Games-experience for the spectators, all the athletes, and make the Games even more exciting and relevant in many other nations and regions where baseball and softball have strongholds and where they are fast continuing their emergence, including in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Muslim cultures and communities where adaptable rules and dress codes for softball have proven popular with women and young girls keen to play sport."
The Women's Baseball World Cup will return in 2016 with an expanded field of 12 nations set to make the trip to South Korea.
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