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BackSoftball Campaign by the ISF


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#1
jlurban

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The decision to remove softball from the 2012 Olympic Games was a huge blow to the international softball community. In response, the International Softball Federation drafted a plan of action known as the BackSoftball Campaign, outlined in this 6/27/07 press release from the ISF website:

Back Softball—Blueprint for Olympic Return in 2016
Softball’s 2016 Olympic reinstatement campaign pledges greater support for youth and female athletes

Enschede, Netherlands – The International Softball Federation (ISF) today launched its campaign to get softball reinstated for the 2016 Olympic Games by unveiling a new look and a ten-point blueprint.

ISF President Don Porter launched the two-year initiative at a press conference here on day eight of the VIII Junior Women’s World Championship (19-and-under, fast pitch). The campaign is supported by a new-look logo that is a contemporary design of a softball, in the five Olympic colors, above the campaign name, BackSoftball.

Porter also unveiled a ten-point blueprint for the BackSoftball campaign designed to improve the sport even further across the criteria the International Olympic Committee (IOC) uses to assess sports for the Olympic Programme.

The International Olympic Committee meets in October, 2009 in Copenhagen for the 121st IOC Session and will vote then on the sports to be included on the Olympic Programme for the Games of XXXI Olympiad in 2016.

In particular, within the BackSoftball blueprint, the ISF pledges to:

• Increase the number of national Softball Federations from 128 to 150 by 2009. Porter revealed that in the last few weeks two more nations had
applied for, and will be granted, National Federation status: Sierra Leone and Jordan.

• Increase the number of worldwide Softball participants—especially youth—to an estimated 12.5 million, an increase of 25%, by 2009.

• Increase the number of federations across the Middle East with an emphasis on providing women and girls in the region with an accessible and acceptable route to sporting participation.

The blueprint is based on the recommendations of the ISF Strategic Task Force (an advisory group comprising key opinion formers and decision makers in the Olympic Movement) which has met twice already this year.

Commenting on the blueprint, Porter said:

“The decision by the IOC in 2005 to exclude Softball from the Programme for London 2012 was a wake-up call for our sport. We have since widely consulted the Olympic Movement and have taken on board some very valuable advice. Today is a reflection of that advice as we lay out our plans to meet and exceed the IOC evaluation criteria.”

“In particular, we are looking to increase the number of young people playing Softball across the world as well as help more women and girls play sport across the Middle East and other similar societies. That is why we welcomed the recent application from Jordan to set up a national federation. This will be the first of many new Softball federations in the Middle East.”

Porter also announced that the ISF will have several campaign surprises in the next two years, which could include appointing a Campaign Director from Europe and setting up a BackSoftball Campaign headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Porter concluded:

“Two years may seem like a long time, but in campaigning it’s just enough time to make some real improvements and then communicate them. This will be an action-orientated campaign. Through this initiative, we are also internationalizing our administration. For example, we’ve talked about setting up the campaign headquarters in Europe, run by a multilingual BackSoftball Campaign Director. Even the designer of our new campaign logo was chosen from Valencia in Spain.”

“There will be a series of other announcements about our campaign over the coming months. We will be focused, dynamic, and flexible. Many people firmly believe that Softball is a real asset to the Olympic Movement. Today is the start of proving just how much of an asset we will be in 2016. We are in this to succeed.”

Softball has been a prominent sport on the Olympic Programme from 1996 to Beijing 2008 and was the first sport to successfully run a test event for Beijing during the ISF’s XI Women’s World Championship in August/September 2006.



#2
jlurban

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The specific ten-point plan from the ISF website:

BackSoftball: Campaign Blueprint

In the drive to get Softball re-instated in the Olympic Programme for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in 2016, the ISF is proud to announce the following campaign blueprint for the next two years. This will be revised and updated as required.

1. Increase Number of Nations Playing Softball
It is the intention of the ISF to increase the number of participating National Softball Federations from 128 to 150 by October 1st 2009 and then push for a further increase to 160 National Softball Federations by the 2016 Olympic Games.

2. Increase Number of Worldwide Participants Playing Softball
The drive to increase National Softball Federations will be part of an overall commitment by the ISF to increase the number of worldwide Softball participants—especially youth—from a current impressive level of 8.4 million to an estimated 10.5 million, an increase of 25% by October 1st 2009. The ISF will then be seeking a further 25% in number of worldwide participants by the 2016 Olympic Games.

3. Increase Number of Youth Accessing Sport Through Softball
The ISF is totally committed to increasing worldwide, the number of young people playing Softball. Each National Federation will increase the percentage of players under age 15 who are regularly playing Softball.

4. Place Even Greater Emphasis on Opportunities for Women in Sport
The ISF is to place an even greater emphasis on increasing the number of federations and participants across the Middle East, highlighted by providing women and girls in the region with an accessible and acceptable route to sporting participation.

5. Provide Even Greater Worldwide Access to People with Disabilities
The ISF is to develop further programmes and opportunities across the world to allow people with disabilities to play softball on a regular basis. This will be monitored from now on and percentage increases on participation of people with disabilities will be expected across all National Softball Federations.

6. Provide Softball Equipment / Coaching Where There is Most Need
The ISF pledges to develop further its initiative of providing regions of the world that are suffering from man-made or natural disasters with free softball equipment and coaching clinics to train new coaches. This will require even closer working relationships with organisations such as the IOC and United Nations (such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees).

7. Increase the Amount of Worldwide Television the Sport Enjoys
The ISF recognizes the vital importance of television and pledges to increase by at least 25% the amount of free to air worldwide television coverage of Softball in two important categories:

a. Number of countries broadcasting Softball competitions
b. Number of worldwide viewers watching Softball events and activity

This will assist in achieving other elements of this blueprint and will assist in securing more prestigious commercial partners—each paying greater levels of commercial fees for the development of the sport.

8. Increase the number of dedicated Softball Federations
Wherever viable, the ISF will seek to create independent Softball Federations that are not integrated within other sports or federations. This will help avoid confusion over identities and will further strengthen the central administration for the worldwide development and growth of the sport.

9. Achieve Even Greater Inclusion and Internationalization in the ISF
The ISF will use the BackSoftball campaign as a platform to internationalize even further the administration of the sport. The best international candidates will be chosen for administrative posts and the administration will strive to reflect the ratio of gender and people with disability contained in the sport.

10. BackSoftball Campaign to be Conducted in True Spirit of Olympism
The ISF pledges to ensure that the Back Softball campaign will be run in the spirit of fair play and will uphold all the values of Olympism. However, the ISF is mounting this campaign to succeed and not just to take part. The ISF aims to prove that Softball is an asset for the Olympic Movement by meeting and exceeding all criteria used by the IOC to evaluate sports for the Olympic Programme for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in 2016.



#3
jlurban

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Press release from the ISF website, posted 10/14/08:

BackSoftball Campaign reaches one-year-until-Olympic-vote landmark
ISF President—‘This is the most important year in softball’s history’

Plant City, Florida (USA) – International Softball Federation President Don Porter believes the next 12 months are the most important in the history of the sport as the BackSoftball Campaign counts down to the International Olympic Committee Session in Copenhagen.

Mr. Porter led a presentation given to the Pan American Sports Organization General Assembly that concluded this past weekend in Acapulco with a view to the re-introduction of men’s softball onto the Pan American Games programme after not being part of the event last year in Rio following seven consecutive prior appearances.

He also pledged to continue sending equipment and coaches to various countries in the Americas, as is done in other regions of the world. This, along with Mr. Porter’s stated hope to see continued development of—in addition to already-established, more traditional disciplines—arena (indoor), wheelchair, and beach softball, is one of the key points on the BackSoftball blueprint that was introduced last year.

The ISF last week announced the launch of the Easton Foundation Youth Softball World Cup in the Czech Republic next August, which continues the campaign’s commitment to promote the sport to new audiences with special attention to young people and women.

The ISF president said, “The next year is the most important in our sport’s history. Hopefully we have shown the IOC how popular and successful softball can be at the Olympic Games and how much progress we have made since being taken off the Olympic programme.

“Participation in the sport continues to grow at an astounding rate, with large numbers of women taking up softball, particularly in areas where sport is not so prevalent, such as the Middle East.

“That has happened because we have been providing coaching and equipment in areas that need it most and also to youth and disabled groups who have highly enjoyed taking up the sport.”

This landmark comes on the back of a hugely successful 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, where international sellout crowds enjoyed a highly exciting and dramatic women’s fastpitch competition, which was eventually won by Japan.

Tickets for the Olympic competition sold out months ahead of the event and huge television audiences around the world tuned in to see Japan beat the defending world champion USA in the gold medal game. Yet again the event ran without any doping offenses being committed, further underlining softball’s strict anti-doping governance and sense of fair play.

At Fengtai Softball Field, Mr. Porter, who is overseeing the BackSoftball Campaign, showed IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge and Executive Board members first-hand how successful the Olympic softball competition was in Beijing.

BackSoftball is also planning a major presence at several events to communicate to key stakeholders the progress the campaign has made over the past few months. Among others, some of these stops include next week’s Sportel convention in Monaco, the presentation to the IOC Programme Commission next month in Switzerland, and SportAccord next March in Denver (USA).

This will be a busy international year for on-field activity with such softball events as the World Games (in Taiwan), ISF XII Men’s World Championship (in Canada), Central American Games (in Honduras), and aforementioned youth cup event (in Prague) among several on the schedule.



#4
jlurban

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Press release from the ISF website, posted 11/14/08:

Softball underlines its Olympic credentials in compelling presentation to IOC Program Commission
ISF President—‘Our mission is to make softball the most inclusive team sport on the planet’

Lausanne, Switzerland – The BackSoftball team today vowed to make softball the most inclusive sport on the planet, as it made its case to return to the Olympic family during a compelling presentation here to the International Olympic Committee Program Commission.

Softball has been campaigning vigorously to be reinstated to the Summer Olympic Games and the BackSoftball team highlighted why recent changes and developments sit firmly alongside the values of the Olympic movement.

ISF President Don Porter was accompanied by ISF VP/North America and co-chair of the BackSoftball Task Force Dale McMann (CAN); Ms. Low Beng Choo (MAS), the world governing body’s deputy secretary general; Donna de Varona, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming and co-chair of the BackSoftball Task Force; and 2008 softball Olympians Saskia Kosterink from the Netherlands and Venezuela’s Rubilena Rojas, who each competed in their first Games three months ago.

Mr. Porter underlined the significant changes that the ISF has made since 2005 when softball was voted off the 2012 Olympic program, including increasing the number of federations to 127, improving education programs, promoting and providing coaching and equipment in under-developed areas, and making rule changes to enhance the spectator experience and add to the sport’s conduciveness to television broadcasts.

Mr. Porter told the IOC Program Commission: “The Singapore vote was a wake-up call; it was a chance, for our sport to change and improve. And we have seized that chance with both hands. We have already changed and will continue to change for the better. We are constantly listening and learning. Our mission is to make softball the most inclusive team sport on the planet.”

Ms. Kosterink and Ms. Rojas spoke passionately about the continued success softball had enjoyed throughout the hugely successful Beijing Olympic Games this summer, highlighting the sellout crowds, close nature of many games, significant positive global media coverage, and the competition’s continued record of no positive doping tests.

But Ms. Rojas went further, underlining how softball had made a difference to her life and how she believed it was acting as a force for good in society. She said, “I found a sport that didn’t judge me; it asked no questions when it welcomed me into its family. I found a sport that helped me set and reach ever higher targets. Softball gave me an education and led me to coaching and to a job. It is a sport that allowed me to become someone. An Olympian.”

Donna de Varona explained to the Program Commission that softball’s continuing legacy sits firmly in line with the Olympic vision and values.

As well as the inaugural Youth World Cup that will be played next year in Prague, softball is working tremendously hard to help increase the number of women participating in sport as well as continuing to expand its global educational projects to help communities and promote a healthy lifestyle among young people.

Among other comments made during her portion of the presentation, Ms. De Varona said, “Softball was the key to help unlock so many injustices around the world. Softball has been instrumental in allowing women and girls to play sport in some of the most restricted countries in the world. Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq. Put simply: Softball has resulted in millions more women and girls playing sport today. The Olympic Games has been the inspiration.”

The BackSoftball delegation was given one hour—30 minutes to speak, and another half-hour for questions and answers—to make its presentation to the IOC Program Commission, which is chaired by Franco Carraro and includes Frank Fredericks, Craig Reedie, and Sam Ramsamy among its 17 members.

Softball is competing for a place in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, with two sports set to be added to the current roster of 26 when the IOC meets in Copenhagen in October next year.

Softball was first featured in the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 and this year’s competition in Beijing, which was won by Japan, was hugely successful with a total attendance close to 180,000 and a continuation of the sport’s excellent record of no positive drug tests in major competitions.

Further information is available in the OTHER DOCUMENTS section of http://www.BackSoftball.com.



#5
jlurban

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Press release from the USA Softball website, posted 11/21/08:

Eight Olympians among Athlete Ambassadors
New program will further involve athletes in reinstatement campaign

Plant City, Florida, USA — The list of softball players from around the world that have been chosen to participate in the Athlete Ambassadors program was announced today. A list of twelve females that will complement the current efforts of the BackSoftball campaign was revealed by International Softball Federation President Don Porter.

The list shows representation from all five regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, and eight of the dozen athletes are Olympians.

Mr. Porter indicated that the process by which these individuals have been chosen began with nominations that were solicited in September from among the ISF’s member federations, who responded “in good numbers.” He said, “We thank not only the national governing bodies that submitted candidates, but certainly all of these athletes that are so willing to help our efforts to get softball reinstated for the Olympics in 2016. The Games are all about the athletes and though we’ve had some assisting with BackSoftball already, this program will formalize and more deeply involve some of the very same girls that are ambassadors of not only our sport, but of Olympic softball.”

Two-time Olympian Michele Smith (USA Softball, 1996 & 2000) will serve in a chairperson role for the group, which consists of the following:

NAME (Position) COUNTRY HIGHLIGHT

Lynn Alexander (OF) South Africa Played in 2007 Africa/Europe Olympic qualifier

Alison Bradley (OF) Canada Two-time Olympian (2004 & 2008)

Daniela Castellani (P/1B) Italy Two-time Olympian (2000 & 2004)

Luciola Figueroa ( C) Puerto Rico Played in 2007 Americas Olympic qualifier

Gergana Handjiyska (IF) Bulgaria Played in 2007 Africa/Europe Olympic qualifier

Saskia Kosterink (OF) Netherlands 2008 Olympian

Jessica Mendoza (OF) USA Two-time Olympian (‘04 – gold medal, ‘08 – silver)

Chueh Ming Hui (P) Chinese Taipei 2008 Olympian

Rubilena Rojas (OF) Venezuela 2008 Olympian

Danielle Stewart (IF) Australia 2008 Olympian (bronze medalist)

Zhou Yi (OF) China Two-time Olympian (2004 & 2008)

Sibylle Züercher (P) Switzerland Played in ‘07 European Women’s Championship B

The ISF is already underway with plans to host the Athlete Ambassadors at its world headquarters here in January, with exact dates soon to be announced. In addition to being further educated on the BackSoftball campaign they will receive tutelage on dealing with the media, especially in relation to the Olympic reinstatement efforts. Other guest presenters besides Michele Smith will be on-hand to speak to the attendees as well.

The Athlete Ambassadors will represent softball at different international events and be utilized to garner more support from other softball players as well as influential people in various international audiences. Although the ISF already has an Athletes Commission that meets every other year at its Congress, this initiative is the most aggressive in putting softball players at the forefront of the steps being taken to get the International Olympic Committee, at their Session in October 2009 in Denmark, to vote to reinstate the sport to the Summer Games for 2016.

ISF Director of Competition Laurie Gouthro, herself a former softball player and coach, will oversee the Athlete Ambassadors program.



#6
jlurban

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News story from GamesBids.com, posted 1/13/09, 1:37 PM CST:

Athletes Involved In BackSoftball Campaign

Following a two-day workshop at the International Softball Federation (ISF) world headquarters in Florida, the BackSoftball Athlete Ambassadors lobbying campaign is now in full swing.

Ten female softball internationals attended, seven of whom have competed in the Summer Olympic Games, with representation from all five regions—Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

During the workshop the Athlete Ambassadors were educated on the BackSoftball Campaign, including the huge increase in people playing softball around the world, said a press release.

There were also workshops focusing on the rules of conduct during the campaign and the Athlete Ambassadors will now represent the BackSoftball Campaign at international events and in the media to talk about the importance of supporting softball's return to the Olympic family.

ISF President Don Porter said, "The Olympic Games are all about the athletes and being able to discuss our vision with internationals who will communicate the message in their homelands is at the heart of our campaign. Softball is an increasingly global sport and the international nature of our ambassadors underlines the global popularity of the sport. Most attendees have participated in the Olympics and know first-hand how important it is for the sport to regain its Olympic status".

Two-time Olympic gold medallist and chair of the Athlete Ambassadors committee, Michele Smith, added, "This year is so important for the future of softball and is a challenging year for our BackSoftball Campaign. Softball has worked hard to earn the right to be back on the Olympic program. It is growing in popularity at a tremendous pace and softball players all over the world will now be working in support of this Olympic goal."



#7
Titan09

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It is great to see that these softball players from around the world are putting in a lot of time and effort to get softball back into the 2016 Olympics. This is so important, because as much as it is great to see tons of fans signing Jamie Gray's petition to save softball, it is really the athletes themselves that need to step up and get their game on the right track with the International Olympic Committee.

#8
SpartanIlliniCub

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The international ambassador strategy is great! If part of the reason the ISF dropped softball is because they didn't think it was an "international game," then what better way to convince them than by an effort from international softball players! Genius!

#9
Successfulgirl

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Softball has made it to the "Final Seven" sports being considered for reinstatement to the 2016 Olympic Program, according to Around The Rings. All seven sports (baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby, squash and softball) will make presentations to the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee in June. The IOC EB will narrow the group of seven down to two in August, and then submit their recommendation to the XIII Olympic Congress & 121st IOC Session around October 6th for final approval.

#10
J-Krow

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Beatrice Allen joins the
ISF's executive council.

News story from insidethegames.com, posted 5/15/09:

IOC member joins softball committee

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Beatrice Allen has joined the International Softball Federation’s (ISF) ruling Executive Council as the sport continues its efforts to get reinstated into the Games.

Allen, the president of the Gambian Softball Federation who introduced the sport to her country, recently presided over the first African Softball Forum, where delegates from ten nations in the continent attended workshops and seminars to discuss its development and using sport as a peace-building tool.

The growth of softball in Africa, particularly among young people and women, has been the result of a huge amount of hard work by the ISF and individual softball federations with ISF president Don Porter last month announcing a $100,000 (£67,000) pledge from his federation, the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and the African Student Sports Union (FASU) as part of the ISF’s commitment to the development of the sport on the continent.

Allen said: “I am extremely honoured to join the ISF Executive Council and I believe that I can help the sport grow even more across the African continent. Softball is a sport for humanity in Africa.

“These are hugely important times for the ISF, with the rate of progress and growth over the past few years providing an incredible testament to the hard work by everyone associated with the sport, from the ISF president to junior coaches playing at street level across the globe.

“While I can’t comment on the specific 2016 campaign, what I can say is that softball’s growth is no surprise because it is easy to learn, cheap to play, and draws people together from diverse communities across the world.”

Porter said: “My recent visit to Gambia brought home how much softball has become a part of the sports culture and I am delighted that Ms. Allen has joined our Executive Council.

"She will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the ISF and will be a great asset to us as we continue to move forward with our growth and development.”

Allen, 58, is the second IOC member currently to serve on the Executive Council following Melitón Sánchez from Panama.

This development further strengthens the BackSoftball campaign’s commitment to growing the sport worldwide in a bid to target new players at every level, with particular focus on women and youth.

Softball was first featured in the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 and last year’s competition in Beijing was very successful with a total attendance close to 180,000 and a continuation of the sport’s record of no positive doping tests in women’s international softball since testing began in 1982.

But it will not be played at London 2012 because, along with baseball, it was controversially voted off the Olympic programme in 2005 by the IOC at its Session in Signapore.

A final decision on which sports will be added to the current roster of 26 at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be made at the 121st IOC Session in Copenhagen in October this year.

Softball is competing against baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens and squash.



#11
SpartanIlliniCub

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Allen, the president of the Gambian Softball Federation who introduced the sport to her country, recently presided over the first African Softball Forum, where delegates from ten nations in the continent attended workshops and seminars to discuss its development and using sport as a peace-building tool.

There is some value to the idea that sports can be a peace-building tool between different geographic regions. I think there is a natural dislike between people of neighboring geographic regions; whether it is between Chicago and Green Bay, France and the UK, or South Africa and Algeria. Sporting leagues provide an acceptable outlet for these geographical rivalries, releasing built-up tension and aggression that may otherwise express itself as violence.

Sports can be a powerful political tool for peace.

#12
gladibu17744

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News story from the Softball BC website, posted 6/4/09:

Japanese Olympic champion pitcher becomes latest BackSoftball Ambassador

Donna de Varona: "Softball has given Yukiko and her teammates a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete on the world stage."

Plant City, Florida – Softball’s popularity across the globe has been further underlined by the appointment of Japanese Olympic champion pitcher Yukiko Ueno as the latest BackSoftball Athlete Ambassador.

Ms. Ueno, whose inspired pitching helped Japan win the gold medal in a thrilling Olympic grand final game against USA last August, has become a national hero since her starring role at Fengtai Softball Field in Beijing.

A bronze medalist at the Athens Olympics in 2004 when she threw the first Olympic softball perfect game, she also won a silver medal at both the 2006 & 2002 International Softball Federation Women's World Championships.

Her pitching at the Games in Beijing raised her profile to new levels, having allowed only one run in seven innings in the gold medal game against the Americans, after having pitched the equivalent of three games the day before in extra innings decisions versus Australia (win) and USA (loss).

Softball is extremely popular in the newest Athlete Ambassador’s country, with the NHK-Japan Broadcasting Corporation having confirmed last September that its ratings for the women’s Olympic softball gold medal game in Beijing were the highest during the entire Olympics with the exception of the Opening Ceremony.

BackSoftball Task Force Co-Chair Donna de Varona, a two-time Olympic gold medalist herself (swimming), said, “Yukiko's extraordinary career has made her a household name in Japan and an Olympic hero. A revered role model in Asia, softball has given Yukiko and her teammates a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete on the world stage and also to nurture their skills in the flourishing professional league in Japan. Yukiko first embraced the Olympic dream while watching softball coverage on television. BackSoftball is focused on continuing to build on the rapid growth and popularity of softball, and Yukiko's participation will enhance this worldwide and passionate effort.”

The BackSoftball Athlete Ambassadors programme was launched just after last year’s Olympic softball competition and includes representation from all five regions (Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe, and Oceania). The softball players involved have been extremely active, with three of them slated to be part of the ISF’s presentation this month to the International Olympic Committee Executive Board.

Softball was first featured in the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 and last year’s competition in Beijing was hugely successful with a total attendance close to 180,000 and a continuation of the sport’s excellent record of no positive doping tests at any of the Olympics since the sport’s debut on the world’s stage 12 years earlier.

A final decision on which sports will be added to the current roster of 26 at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be made at the 121st IOC Session in Copenhagen in October this year.



#13
jpoljak223

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News article by David Crary fom The New York Times website, posted 8/14/08:

BEIJING BEAT: Softball battles to stay in Olympics

BEIJING (AP) – In rural China, on the outskirts of Moscow, in African school yards, softball's missionaries are working doggedly to plant their sport in places where it has no roots. At stake: a chance to return to the Olympics after an exile that begins after the Beijing games.

Along with baseball, softball has been dropped from the program for 2012 Olympics in London. Both will seek reinstatement for 2016, and softball's challenge is to prove to the International Olympic Committee that it is a genuinely global sport despite the overwhelming domination of the United States at past Olympics and world championships.

The cumulative U.S. record in those events: 130-14.

"We want to see more balance, where everyone has a good chance of winning rather than just being an also-ran," said Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation.

Softball has many players and strong national teams in Australia, Canada and Japan. The Chinese Olympic team also is solid, though efforts to spread the sport at the grass-roots level across this huge nation face challenges.

But in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, softball remains a marginal sport at best. These are regions which together hold a majority of seats on the IOC, and they are the target zones for the ISF's return-to-the-Olympics campaign, called Back Softball.

A regional training center opened recently near Moscow; another will open soon in Rome. Burkina Faso, Gambia, Jordan, Mali and Sierra Leone are among the latest countries to affiliate with the ISF, which says there are now 131 national softball federations.

But having a governing body doesn't mean the sport is entrenched. Jordan established a softball union earlier this year despite lacking a proper field, coach or players.

"Trying to get any sport into where it's not known at all, where there's no interest, isn't easy," Porter said.

And he acknowledged the task could soon be even harder.

"It's easy when you to go a country, and say, 'Hey, we're an Olympic sport,' Right away you get instant credibility," Porter said. "The problem we face now is that we're not an Olympic sport - but we want to be again."

The ISF's outreach program encompasses poor and war-torn countries. It includes donations of equipment, clinics for coaches and umpires, and a vigorous effort to persuade school officials to add softball to their sports programs.

"If we can get kids interested at a young age, we have a better opportunity to see our sport develop," Porter said.

China is among the nations interested in offering softball at its schools and colleges. But in a nation of 1.3 billion people, there are only about 50,000 or 60,000 softball players, including many who play slow-pitch rather than Olympic-style fast pitch, according to Jiang Xiuyun, a vice president of the Chinese Softball Association.

Jiang said one of the biggest challenges is finding enough playing fields.

"Another challenge is the complicated rules," she said. "A lot of people don't understand now to play it."

Even countries with relatively strong softball programs faces challenges. Australian pitcher Tanya Harding says her team has to travel overseas to find strong competition because of the thin ranks of top-level players at home.

"We need to get more kids involved in the sport - our numbers have definitely dropped," she said. "Kids are just not playing as many sports as they used to."

In North America, softball has legions of players and fans. But the U.S. national team coach, Mike Candrea, can see the challenges elsewhere.

"The grass-roots is a big issue everywhere," he said. "Outside of the United States, it's very difficult anywhere you go, but that's kind of part of growing the sport."

An argument could be made that Candrea's powerful team hurts the chances for softball's Olympic reinstatement each time it pounds out another lopsided victory. Of course, the U.S. players see no option but to play their best and hope other countries catch up.

"We're not trying to put on a show," Candrea said. "We're playing the game the way we want to play it."

The ISF estimates there are about 8.4 million registered softball players in the world—about half outside North America. That figure does not include the many millions of Americans and Canadians who play softball on a casual basis.

Pinning down the numbers is one the ISF's tasks as it looks ahead to the crucial meeting in October 2009 when the IOC will decide what sports to add in 2016.

"Hopefully by time we get ready to make our presentations, we'll have more accurate figures—so the IOC has something they know we're not just pulling out of the air," Porter said.

For motivation, Porter says he needs look no further than the e-mails arriving by the hundreds from softball-playing girls around the world.

"They tell you how disheartened they are that their Olympic dreams have faded away," Porter said. "I keep those handy, on my desk. Because every day I can come in and look at them and say, 'Hey, we've got to do more.' We let down those young athletes out there and we just can't do it again."



#14
MeghanBrennan

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News article from Around the Rings.com, posted 6/9/09:

Caribbean chief backs Olympic softball bid

Plant City, Florida (USA) – CONCACAS President Carlos Lopez believes softball’s Olympic status would help continue the positive momentum the sport has established to provide sporting opportunities both in his region and all across the world.

Also the president of the Puerto Rico Softball Federation, Mr. Lopez believes that the profile of Olympic competition will further boost softball’s initiatives to provide coaching and equipment in areas where funds are short.

The Central American & Caribbean Softball Confederation (CONCACAS) leader said, “It is vital that softball’s positive momentum continues—and Olympic status is an important element of that. The International Softball Federation has made a huge investment in this region, determined to help us use the sport as a tool for good and provide opportunities for groups who may not otherwise play sports. It fits in with Olympic values, and the Olympic competition has been the pinnacle for softball players throughout the world.

“Softball has become an integral part of Caribbean culture because it’s simple to learn and doesn’t cost much to play. Maintaining the sport’s progress would be boosted significantly by regaining Olympic Programme status that provided such a range of benefits from 1996 to 2008.

“There is tremendous excitement about the Youth World Cup in Prague in two months’ time, where we are hopeful our team will be a medal contender. The range of competing nations in the Czech Republic and the impact softball has had in the Caribbean underlines how vital the sport is to the people in this region.”

Puerto Rico is preparing for the ISF XII Men's World Championship too, which will also include Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Great Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, reigning champions New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, USA and Venezuela. That tournament takes place July 17-26 in Saskatchewan, Canada.

In addition to Puerto Rico’s team at the 12-nation Youth World Cup in the Czech Republic, another participant will be the Dominican Republic, which hosts one of the ISF’s regional training centers, promoting the accessibility and virtues of softball to a wide range of audiences across the region. Fellow CONCACAS member Venezuela will take part in the August event in Europe as well.

Softball is particularly popular in the Caribbean among young people, where it is used as a way of promoting understanding and averting tension in built-up areas.

The sport’s profile in that region was also increased recently when Mr. Lopez’s colleague, CONCACAS vice president Roberto Espinoza, was elected third vice president of the National Olympic Committee of Nicaragua.

On-field, the Bahamas is currently organizing the English-speaking Caribbean Association Softball Tournament which will take place November 9-12 in Nassau.

And, the U.S. Virgin Islands recently played host to a men’s fast pitch softball tournament that Canada and Team USA used as a tune-up for next month’s ISF championship.

Softball was first featured in the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 and last year’s competition in Beijing was hugely successful with a total attendance close to 180,000 and a continuation of the sport’s excellent record of no positive doping tests at any of the Olympics since the sport’s debut on the world’s stage 12 years earlier.

A final decision on which sports will be added to the current roster of 26 at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be made at the 121st IOC Session in Copenhagen in October this year.



#15
FaspitchPapa

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It took 9 years, but it seems like the Back Softball campaign was a success!  Softball is back in the Olympic games!

But the work is not over... The 2020 games are in baseball and softball obsessed Japan, but the games move to Paris in 2024 which is no where near as big of a fan of softball.  So inclusion in 2020 may be a short lived victory.  Back Softball needs to keep up the intensity to make sure softball stays in the games from now on!






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