Baseball, and the female side, softball, are disciplines of immense popularity in Japan. The national teams are among the best in the world: women did not leave the Olympic podium between 2000 and 2008, winning the gold medal in Beijing in 2008. The men won three medals at the Games (bronze in 1992 and 2004, silver in 1996) and triumphed 18 times in the Asian Championship, a result unmatched by their neighbors. Thanks to the 2020 Olympic Agenda, which includes for the host country the possibility of temporarily adding sports to the program, it is only natural that the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee wished to include baseball and softball.
The two disciplines have been Olympic softball 1996 to 2008, and the baseball eight times as a demonstration sport from 1912 until his formal admission to the program in Barcelona in 1992. In 2005, at its 117th session, the International Olympic Committee withdrew the two batting sports from the Olympic calendar, after three victories for Cuba, one for the United States and, finally, for the Republic of Korea in 2008 on the men’s side, and, for the women, medals won by the United States (three gold medals), Japan (one gold, one silver, one bronze), Australia (one silver, three bronze) and China (one silver). These two sports are, therefore, absent from the London Games in 2012 and the Rio Games in 2016.
In 2013, the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and the International Softball Federation (ISF) merged. The World Confederation of baseball and softball (WBSC) was thus created, becoming the only Federation governing both sports. For their return, and matches that will compete in front of tens of thousands of enthusiastic fans, the two tournaments will each bring together six teams at the end of an international qualifying process.
On the road to Tokyo 2020
In softball, the first team to qualify in the United States, which defeated Japan 7-6 in the 2018 World Championships final on August 12 in Chiba. For its part, Japan is automatically qualified for the Olympic tournament as the host country. For the remaining four places, continental qualifying tournaments will be organized in 2019: Europe-Africa (winner’s qualification), America (first two qualifications) and Asia-Oceania (winner’s eligibility).
On the baseball side, with Japan present ex officio, the first two qualifiers will be the result of the largest worldwide competition, the “WBSC premier 12”, a real-world championship that will bring together in November 2019 the twelve First nations in the international ranking stopped at the end of 2018. The top team from Asia / Oceania (excluding Japan) and the top-ranked team from the Americas will each receive an Olympic ticket.
After that, a Six-Team Africa-Europe Olympic qualifier tournament (the first five of the 2019 European Championships and the winner of the African Championships) will offer a place for the Games. Another area will be awarded following a qualifying tournament held on the American continent and involving eight teams, including all the teams from the mainland that participated in the “WBSC Premier 12” but did not get their Sesame for Tokyo 2020, as well as the champion of the Pan American Games of 2019 in Lima. Finally, an intercontinental tournament will award the last available spot. It will bring together the following six teams: the 2nd of the Europe-Africa qualifying tournament, the 2nd and 3rd of the competition held on the American continent, the two best teams of the Asian Championships (excluding those already qualified) and the winner of the Oceania 2019 tournament.
The two Olympic tournaments will begin at the Azuma Stadium in Fukushima on July 22 for softball and July 29 for baseball. They will continue in Yokohama Stadium, with the women’s final taking place on July 28, while the men’s final is scheduled for the penultimate day of the competitions, Saturday, August 8, 2020.