By Nick Butler
A Tokyo 2020 Additional Event Programme Panel has been convened to study the feasibility of proposing specific sports to be added to the Olympic Games in the Japanese capital.
The Panel, which was established today following a Multi Party Leaders Meeting, will work in accordance with a process to be agreed with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the next IOC Project Review meeting on February 4 and 5, it was explained.
Its formation comes a month after the unanimous approval of the IOC's Olympic Agenda 2020 reform process, where host cities are now allowed to propose the inclusion of additional events for their Games.
Due to its huge popularity in Japan, men's baseball and women's softball are seen as the outstanding favourites to return to the programme, seven years after being dropped following the Beijing 2008 Games.
Karate, squash, skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and roller sports are others with serious aspirations, while new disciplines in pre-existing sports - like 3x3 basketball - are also vying for inclusion.
Seven members will sit on the Panel, including representatives from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Olympic Committee, and the Japan Sports Association.
It will be chaired by Fujio Mitarai, the head of imaging giants Canon who is also honorary chairman of the Japanese Business Federation, while Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto will be vice-chair.
Tokyo vice-governor Tsuyoshi Akiyama, Japan Wrestling Federation President Tomiaki Fukuda and Atsuko Toyama, the former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology are others on the Panel, while Tokyo 2020 Sports Director Koji Murofushi will also be one of three observers assisting the Panel.
He will be joined by Kimito Kubo, the Director General, Sports and Youth Bureau, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and Japanese Olympic Committee Executive Board member, Naoko Takahashi.
No precise timeline has yet been given for a final decision being made, although it remains possible sports could be officially added as soon as July, during the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur.
"Among the recommendations adopted by the IOC in its Olympic Agenda 2020 last month was that future Organising Committees be allowed to propose additional events for the consideration of the IOC," said Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori following today's meeting.
"And at today's meeting, we obtained agreement for the establishment of a Panel to study the feasibility of proposing specific sports to be included in the 2020 Olympic Games in accordance with a process to be agreed with the IOC.
"The establishment of the Panel is being made in response to one of the objectives of the reforms laid out in the Olympic Agenda 2020, which is to reflect as much as possible the wishes and the prevailing conditions of the host city.
"This point has gathered much attention both in Japan and around the wider sporting world.
"Tokyo 2020 will continue to work closely with the IOC, and will discuss details of exactly how this panel will conduct its activities with the delegation from the IOC at the IOC Project Review.
"Following this, the process will be finally determined."
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December 2014: Karate officials meet with Japanese Prime Minister to kick-start drive for Tokyo 2020 inclusion
December 2014: "It is like being called off the bench" says WBSC President as Tokyo 2020 door opened for baseball and softball
December 2014: IOC members accept changes to Olympic bidding process and sports programme
November 2014: Daniel Etchells: Excellent timing of historic squash merger with Olympic Agenda 2020 on the horizon