As the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and global baseball-softball community moves into 2021, we start the year by celebrating 200 days to go to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Here, baseball and softball will make their Olympic comebacks at what will be a celebration of humanity’s shared strength and resilience in the face of adversity.
I am looking forward to the year ahead with fresh optimism and determination. It is in this spirit that today we can look ahead to our return to the Olympic stage in one of baseball-softball’s spiritual homes, Japan.
As one of the most popular sports in Japan, baseball has played a key role in leading innovations in health and safety protocols and countermeasures at sports events. The Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) game in November at the Yokohama Stadium, an Olympic baseball and softball venue, demonstrated how live sport can be played in a safe environment with tens of thousands of spectators in attendance. Our sport inspired hope and allowed us all to witness live sport with the cheer of the crowd bolstering that electric atmosphere that we all know and love.
For softball, the wait for Olympic competition is even shorter with matches set to begin less than 200 days from now on 21 July 2021, just two days before the official Opening Ceremony. The first six games of the competition will be held at the Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima, demonstrating the incredible transformation of the region following the devastation caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
It is certainly an honour for the softball community and especially the six qualified teams – Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico and USA — to start the Games and we are proud of the role our sport has played in supporting the recovery of Fukushima and its people. I know that our sport and athletes will not only showcase the best of softball but also provide a fitting start to what will be a fantastic Olympic Games.
On the road to Tokyo 2020 we have much to look forward to. The WBSC is continuing to work hard, in close coordination with organisers, to confirm the dates for the Americas Baseball Olympic Qualifiers and Final Baseball Olympic Qualifiers where teams shall compete for the remaining two spots at the Games. Four of the world’s best teams have already qualified for Tokyo 2020, including Japan, Israel, Mexico and Korea, and I am excited for this line up to become even stronger with the remaining qualification events.
Indeed, our highly anticipated and spectacular return to the Olympic Games – baseball (five editions) and softball (four editions) having featured at the Olympics from 1992 to 2008 – will be a key milestone on the global baseball-softball community’s journey. Yet our journey will not stop at Tokyo 2020, as there is a bright and strong future ahead for baseball-softball, and we will have our sights set on the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games and beyond, because we know there are so many positive contributions our sport can continue to make to the Olympic Movement. For example, our accessible and inclusive urban discipline Baseball5 will debut at the 2026 Dakar Youth Olympic Games as the first Olympic team sport to feature mixed-gender teams.
We will continue to adapt and innovate whilst working closely with all our partners to further develop our sport and move closer to our vision of a billion-strong global baseball-softball community. In addition, the WBSC looks forward to more innovation in the dynamic and youth-focused space of E-Sports, potentially expanding the reach of baseball and softball to millions of gamers and fans.
While we are excited for what lies ahead, we recognise there will be challenges. But I have no doubt that the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee will continue their tireless efforts to deliver an Olympic Games fit for a post-corona world.
Certainly, everyone in the global baseball-softball community will do all that they can to support the Olympic Movement and promote Olympic values on the journey ahead. Because it is only together that we will move sport forward and ensure that no one faces these challenges alone.
So above all, I look forward to 200 days from now when we shall come together in person and witness our athletes perform on the Olympic stage once again. For it is our unwavering passion for sport and devotion to strengthening the Olympic Games and its values that connects and inspires us every single day. Together, we will strive forward to the light at the end of this very difficult period for humanity – the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.