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Friday, November 14, 2008
Team of baseball reps makes its 2016 case to IOC panel

Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Baseball made its pitch to the International Olympic Committee Friday for a place at the 2016 Summer Games.

A team of six, led by International Baseball Federation president Harvey Schiller and featuring Detroit Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, spent an hour putting their case for inclusion to an IOC panel of experts.

Schiller said the one-hour presentation to the program commission at the International Olympic Committee headquarters went well.

"I thought everybody was smiling," said Schiller, a former Turner Sports and YankeeNets executive.

Softball, golf, karate, rugby, roller sports and squash also made hour-long, closed-door presentations to the IOC program commission.

The 16-member panel will deliver an influential report to the IOC's top decision-making body before a vote next year in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Schiller said the baseball delegation was asked if it could deliver major league players to a 16-team Olympic tournament in August 2016.

"We're committed to bringing the best players ever to the Olympic baseball tournament," he said. "We talked about our advances in drug testing. We have an agreement with the professional leagues in terms of out-of-competition testing for the events we sanction."

Each sport must host an IOC delegation to observe an event, and baseball has invited officials to attend the World Baseball Classic finals in Los Angeles next March.

The seven sports were rejected for the 2012 London Games in voting by more than 100 IOC members three years ago. Baseball and softball were dropped, while the other five failed to gather enough support for inclusion.

The IOC wants the candidates to demonstrate they have a worldwide audience and appeal to young people.

International Softball Federation president Don Porter said his sport's chances might have been helped when U.S. dominance ended after the Americans lost to Japan in the gold-medal game in Beijing. The Americans had won three straight gold medals since the sport was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"More countries are getting to be more competitive and we're working toward that," he said. "We have got a lot of work to do and change is coming. We're doing what we need to make our sport exciting, interesting and available."

PGA executive Ty Votaw and Peter Dawson of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, made a golf presentation that included video messages from Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa.

They brought the trophy that was presented the last time the sport was played at the Olympics, in 1904.

Votaw said golf's strong points were "speaking with one voice, bringing top players, and worldwide participation," with the sport televised in 216 countries each week.

"We would be able to promote golf in the Olympics and the Olympic movement across that platform every single week," Votaw said. "I think it was favorably received."

Golf's Olympic proposal is for 60-player men's and women's tournaments, one in each week of the Olympics. It has not been decided if the events would be stroke or match play.

Votaw said an IOC observer team could be invited to attend The Masters in Augusta, Ga.

World Karate Federation president Antonio Espinos flew in from the world championships in Tokyo. He said karate had 180 national federations and values of fairness and discipline.

Rugby fell from the Olympic program in 1924 and wants to come back with the seven-side, shorter version of the game for men and women.

International Rugby Board chief executive Mike Miller said the sport was a proven success at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, and was being added to the Pan-American and African Games schedules.

The International Federation for Roller Sports proposes road races on city streets for men and women.

The World Squash Federation hopes that television-friendly, glass-enclosed courts can counter the sport's reputation as one that struggles to translate the speed of play to viewers.

The program commission, which is chaired by Italian Franco Carraro, will present a report to the IOC executive board. The board meets next June to make recommendations to the full IOC membership. A simple majority is needed for a sport to be voted onto the program.

The IOC also will select the 2016 host city during the Copenhagen session in October. The candidates are Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.