Senior officials representing a number of European countries at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) have held a meeting to discuss the future of the sports in the Olympic Games in Athens.
The gathering summoning European leaders was called to review and boost baseball and softball development in countries in Eastern and Southern Europe, considered key growth targets by WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari, who is is looking to grow baseball and softball into a major global sport and long-term Olympic sport.
"Currently, baseball and softball represent the biggest sport - with approximately 65 million athletes and 200 million fans in over 140 countries and territories - seeking a permanent place on the Olympic Programme," Fraccari said.
"The baseball and softball leaders here in Athens share a vision to grow our sport and develop a unified roadmap, and the knowledge and information that was reported by the National Federations today will be critical to our collective success and formulating an action plan and objectives, which include long-term Olympic status."
A group of 27 national governing bodies participated in the summit, with each taking the floor to cite both the challenges and successes in increasing participation levels in their respective territory.
The WBSC Development Commission, based on the reports from the National Federations in Athens, has been mandated to outline a strategic development plan, incorporating it into the overall Olympic/Global strategy, to present to the WBSC Executive Committee for review and potential approval.
Ongoing first ever East-South Europe Baseball Softball Summit in Athens. Looking forward to share experiences and work together on a new development structure. @WBSC @BaseballEurope @ESFsoftball pic.twitter.com/UdpAwy2sOb— Riccardo Fraccari (@WBSCPresident) January 31, 2019
It is the latest initiative by the WBSC to try to ensure it has a long-term future back on the Olympic programme after regaining its place at Tokyo 2020 having been axed following Beijing 2008.
Last month, baseball and softball national governing bodies in the next three Olympic host nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding as part of the bid to appear at Paris 2024.
Governing bodies in Japan, for Tokyo 2020, France, for Paris 2024 and the United States, for Los Angeles 2028, came together in a bid to boost the prospects of baseball/softball.
Described as a "novel cooperation", the agreement included pledges on high performance, youth development and coaching.
Besides Fraccari, the WBSC was represented in Athens by its Softball Division chairman Tommy Velazquez, treasurer Angelo Vicini and executive director Michael Schmidt.
WBSC Europe was represented by co-chairs Didier Seminet and Gabriel Waage.