Excitement, full stadia and media interest at the Asian Games, along with an endorsement from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) President, have boosted baseball and softball as the sports bid for a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, according to their world governing body.
This follow a thrilling baseball final between South Korea and Taiwan at the Munhak Stadium on Sunday (September 28), which saw the home team battle to a 6-3 victory in front of a loud, vociferous and wildly enthusiastic crowd.
And of all the sports featured here, baseball seems to have been the one which has best caught the mood of the South Korea public, particularly due to the presence of many of the nation's biggest professional stars.
The sport, along with softball, is currently locked in a battle be re-introduced to the Olympic programme following its omission in the aftermath of Beijing 2008, a battle which had seemingly been lost last year when the sports lost out to wrestling in a race for one spot at the 2020 Games.
But late last year the door was surprisingly opened again, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) keen to embrace more flexibility in the programme, and take advantage of sports that are popular in the host nation, as baseball is in Japan.
The success of this competition has further broadened the appeal of the sport, as well as showing what baseball can bring to a major multi-sport event.
While keen to "respect the Olympic Agenda 2020 process, which may or may not pave the way for a return", the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) have hailed the Games as something that has helped the sport.
"The excitement, full stadia, media interest and fan-experience generated by Asia's top baseball athletes at the Asian Games, the premier sporting and cultural event in Asia, is a major boost to our overall strategy of growing and showcasing our sport to new domestic and international audiences," a spokesman told insidethegames today.
"This is especially for the youth and to sponsors and broadcasters who provide the essential resources and visibility needed to develop the sports.
"The success of the baseball at the Asian Games highlights how our bat-and-ball sport can help grow the sport on the continent, now a regional world power."
But perhaps the most significant boost here in Incheon were the positive words uttered by Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, the OCA President who is also an IOC member, the head of the Association of National Olympic Committees and a major power-broker in the Olympic Movement.
He replied, "in my personal opinion, yes", when asked if baseball should return in Tokyo, explaining that the Japanese capital had all the infrastructure and facilities in place to fit baseball into the programme.
"The Olympics as a sporting leader and Tokyo as the hosting city would be happy to see baseball at the Games," he added.
"WBSC's leadership has been listening to and learning from IOC members and leaders of the Olympic Movement," the WBSC spokesman added to insidethegames.
"It's a great honour and source of encouragement to have the consideration and support of such a well-respected and knowledgeable world sports leader like Sheikh Ahmad.
"Along with Olympic Agenda 2020's introduction under President Bach, there is great hope, enthusiasm and activation among the millions of baseball and softball athletes around the world who dream and consider it the highest possible honour to play for their countries and represent their national teams at the Olympic Games.
"The WBSC and our global stakeholders will strengthen our commitment and efforts toward building and growing baseball and softball as a sporting opportunity for young people and women in new and emerging territories for bat and ball sports in Africa, Europe, Oceania and in Muslim countries."
"They will do this in ways that can enhance their lives and communities, and to promote such endeavours as gender-equality, greater access to sport and physical education, and stimulation of local economies and job creation."
Baseball and softball are heading a lengthy list of sports eagerly awaiting the outcome of Agenda 2020, which will culminate in an IOC Session in Monte Carlo on December 8 and 9, to see if they have a chance of being added.
Skateboarding, squash, wushu, sport climbing and roller skating are others hoping to be considered.
The WBSC will now be hoping that the softball competition, building up to a final on Thursday (October 2), will be a similarly successfully strong advertisement for the campaign.
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