Baseball and softball are one step away from ending a 12-year Olympic hiatus.
Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Monday nominated the two sports together as one of eight finalists to make their return to the Summer Games. The other finalists were bowling, karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, surfing and martial arts.
Baseball, softball and the other seven sports were handpicked from a longer list of 26 released earlier this month. The International Olympic Committee is expected to hear presentations for each sport in August and make a final decision in August 2016.
IOC president Thomas Bach added a reform last year allowing a host city to add sports that would be popular in its own country to help boost ratings. Baseball and softball certainly fall into that category, as both are immensely popular in Japan.
The Tokyo 2020 organizers say they hope to target a young audience with their new sports and “add value to the Games by engaging the Japanese population and new audiences worldwide,” according to the Business Times.
Baseball and softball last appeared in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, with South Korea earning gold in baseball and Japan winning in softball. Baseball wasn’t recognized as an official Olympic sport until 1992, while softball earned the distinction in 1996.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@ASAUSASoftball