By Gary Anderson

February 14 - A poll claims that 70 per cent of Japanese want to see baseball and softball return to the Olympics at Tokyo 2020 ©AFP/Getty ImagesAlmost 70 per cent of Japanese people want to see baseball and softball on the programme of sports for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games according to a nationwide poll conducted by media firm Yomiuri Shimbun.

The poll was based on data collected from 1,522 respondents, who took part in a random nationwide survey conducted last month, and almost 70 per cent of those surveyed said given a choice, they would want to see baseball and softball on the Tokyo 2020 programme.

At last year's International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Buenos Aires, baseball and softball lost out to wrestling for inclusion at Tokyo 2020.

Baseball and softball had been dropped from the Olympic programme prior to the London 2012 Games, following a controversial vote by the IOC at its Session in Singapore in 2005.

Baseball and softball was among seven sports originally campaigning for a place at Tokyo 2020, along with wrestling, karate, squash, wakeboard, wushu and roller sports.

Last month's poll indicated these other sports only received zero to three per cent support from the Japanese audience, while a quarter of respondents were either unsure of which sport they would select or did not give an answer.

The results of the survey will not come as a surprise, considering baseball and softball is one of the most popular sports in Japan.

That was backed up by figures which indicated that Japan's premier baseball league - Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) - was the most popular spectator sport, polling 49 per cent of votes while 34 per cent of respondents said that they preferred to watch youth baseball, making it the second most popular spectator sport in Japan.

Major League Baseball (MLB) and national college baseball from the United States proved popular with 10 per cent and three per cent of respondents.

Last year, Japan's win over the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic drew the largest sports event television audience over the previous 12-month period.

The Nippon Professional Baseball league is the most popular spectator sport in Japan according to a recent poll ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe Nippon Professional Baseball league is the most popular spectator sport in Japan according to a recent poll ©AFP/Getty Images

"We are very proud and honoured that baseball and softball continue to form such a significant part of the Japanese culture and sporting landscape, as confirmed by these very favourable poll results and as reflected by the number of gold medals earned in our World Championships," said World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) co-Presidents Riccardo Fraccari and Don Porter.

"With Japan now firmly intent on building its national team brand - Samurai Japan - baseball and softball's path will be not only sustained, but further accelerated and continue to be a source of national pride."

With the huge popularity of baseball and softball in Japan, the IOC's decision to overlook it for Tokyo 2020 represented a major blow to the sport but hopes of a reprieve were raised last November when IOC President Thomas Bach hinted that its inclusion is still "under discussion" during a visit to the Japanese capital.

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