We can do a lot for the Olympics and they can do a lot for our sports, claims leading softball official
By Nick Butler (Inside the Games)

January 30 - Low Beng Choo, secretary general of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), has claimed Olympic inclusion would be beneficial for baseball and softball but also for the Olympic Movement as a whole.

Since baseball and softball were removed from the Olympic programme following Beijing 2008, the two sports have combined in the umbrella World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and have undergone a number of reforms.

Despite finishing a distant second behind wrestling in the initial vote for inclusion in the 2020 Games at last year's International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Buenos Aires, IOC President Thomas Bach has since provided new hope.

On a visit to Tokyo last November, he claimed reintroducing the two sports in baseball-mad Japan was "under discussion".

Although she hugely welcomed this opportunity Low Beng Choo, who comes from a softball background and is also secretary-general of the International Softball Federation (ISF), insisted the sports will continue to battle for inclusion whatever the outcome of their 2020 bid.

"We knew wrestling was strong and deserved a place on the Olympics - with all of their history and traditions - but we also believe that we deserve a place on the programme", she told insidethegames.

"We can do a lot for the Olympics and they can do a lot for our sports.

"I have no doubts that, given an opportunity to be at 2020, we would do well.
"As you know baseball and softball are big sports in Japan, and we are very grateful that the Japanese people would like to see both our sports in Tokyo.

"We are continuing our effort regardless, and the earliest we can get on the programme would be best, but we will continue working to get our opportunity."

Low Beng Choo insisted the biggest challenge ahead for the sports lies in "convincing IOC members that we have made a lot of changes".

Particular areas where progress has been made include working together with the various professional baseball leagues around the world, maintaining international growth, and focusing on anti-doping which - after a number of recent suspensions - is an issue all of the professional leagues are taking "very seriously", she claimed.

Speaking earlier this month in Manila during the Asian Sporting Centenary celebrations, Low Beng Choo particularly highlighted progress in terms of development particularly among youth populations - with her own continent highlighted as a particular example.

Despite the popularity of rival sports, Pakistan unveiled their first junior men's team for softball last month, for example, while the women's game is also growing in both Iraq and Iran.

This was described as "huge given the circumstances of these countries" and plans are also now underway to organise a regional tournament for west and central Asia to be held some time later this year.

Low Beng Choo added that, since the replacement of American Don Porter with Canada's Dale McMann as ISF President at last year's Congress in Cartagena in Colombia, there has been a "smooth transition" and that the relationship with baseball remains as strong as ever.

She described how the sports are currently trying to put everything together for a joint Congress due to be held in the first half of this year and, although there is still some checking to do as far as the Articles are concerned, everything is "coming along fine".