POSTED: February 26th 2009

Schiller tempts softball on 2016

Beijing 2008 / Image: Michael Zarrilli
Beijing 2008 / Image: Michael Zarrilli

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

TAMPA/LONDON: Baseball's attempt to partner with softball has added an intriguing twist to the Olympic sports bid process.

Harvey Schiller, president of the International Baseball Federation, believes a joint bid can strengthen the case for both spots in front of the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen in October.

He is putting his proposal to Don Porter, his opposite number at the International Softball Federation, in Orlando, Florida. The ISF has its headquarters in nearby Plant City and Schiller is in Orlando in his role as ceo of GlobalOptions Group which is hosting a two-day event at which President Bill Clinton is a keynote speaker on behalf of his William J Clinton Foundation.

The Olympic mischief here is that softball has been trying to run as fast as it can to escape the shadow of baseball and, in particular, some critics' dismissal of softball as "women's baseball." 

To underline the separation, the ISF is insisting that all national associations cut the ties many have long held with baseball. These arrangements have existed, in many countries, where officials have judged shared facilities and support structures as essential for survival.

Schiller said on Wednesday that he believed the two sports should work together to bring both on board for the 2016 Games. He thought this would allow the IOC to add three of the bidding sports, rather than two.

He said he had letters of support for the proposal from various baseball federations in Europe and Africa as well as from Japan.

Joint bid doubt

Schiller is not a new convert to the idea. In an exclusive interview here with Sports Features Communications last autumn, he said:  "A lot of people believe baseball and softball might do well to go into the Olympics together - men's and women's - but that's up to the softball federation to agree or not."

Porter is reported as having said he will listen to what Schiller has to say but is skeptical about whether a joint bid would be any more advantageous for softball. Indeed, he may consider it quite the opposite since it would turn on its head softball's campaigning strategy.

He said: "We would have to find some assurance - more than there is now - that it would be more than helpful for us to regain our Olympic status.

"There's always a possibility but it's a matter of where our discussion leads to. We're in a fight for our lives for our sport. We'll see where they're coming from."

Copenhagen in October is where and when the IOC will decide which one, or two or - possibly - three sports may enter or re-enter the 2016 Games. The other contenders are golf, karate, roller sports, rugby union and squash.

Keywords · ISF · IBAF · baseball · softball · Schiller · Porter · IOC · 2016 Olympic Games

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