By Duncan Mackay

Karate World_ChampionshipsJune 15 - Karate is the odds-on favourite to be included on the Olympic programme for 2020, according to the British bookmakers William Hill.  

They are 1/2 to win the nomination ahead of squash at evens, baseball and softball at 5/4, wushu at 5/2, roller sports 8/1, sports climbing 10/1 and wakeboard 10/1.

"We think that it could be time for karate to come into the equation," William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly told insidethegames.

"Long ignored on an Olympic level, Hills make it 1/2 to feature in 2020 for the first time.

"Another sport that has never featured at a Games is squash and Hills make it even money to get an airing.

"Baseball will not feature in London, the first time the sport has not been at an Olympics since 1980 [it was a demonstration sport in 1984 and 1988] and it will also miss out on going to Rio but Hills think it could return with a flourish in 2020, making it 5/4 to do so."

Baseball Beijing_2008_Canada_v_China
William Hill are basing their assessment on the fact that karate narrowly missed out on making the programme for London 2012 - narrowly failing to get the two-thirds majority - and also that they make Tokyo the favourites to be awarded the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Karate was developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan, and was popularised in that country after World War Two.

Karate officials claim that there is now more than 50 million peple around the world who practice the sport.

"Their previous application [for the Olympics] in 2005 went close and we think it could well do it this time," said Crilly.

"Taekwondo and judo are very popular at the Games and we think that another martial arts discipline, especially if 2020 could be in Japan, could only be a good thing."

The eight sports currently bidding for inclusion were cut from 12 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last July at its Session in Durban.

The IOC are now analysing the eight applicant sports against a list of more than 30 criteria, including how popular the sport is around the world, how it is governed, and how effective its anti-doping programme is.

Only one of the sports will be chosen by the IOC at its Session in Buenos Aires in September 2013. 

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