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Baseball, Softball Done After 2008

Times Staff Writer

Seven months after being kicked out of the Olympics, baseball and softball struck out again on Thursday, both sports losing votes for reconsideration. They will be Olympic sports for the last time at Beijing in 2008.

Baseball, needing 45 votes of 88 cast, got 42 -- with 46 members voting against. Softball, needing 46 votes of 90, got 43 -- with 47 against. Two more IOC members took part in the secret electronic balloting for softball than had voted minutes before on baseball,

Without those sports, the 2012 Games in London will include 26 sports, instead of 28.

Baseball and softball -- as well as many other sports, including karate, squash and water skiing -- can reapply for the 2016 Games in a vote to be taken in 2009.

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The election gave a significant victory to IOC President Jacques Rogge, who had considered the original vote final last July in Singapore.

The rejection of two sports so closely affiliated with the United States also affirmed European domination of the IOC’s policies and politics.

“I didn’t say this in Singapore,” Don Porter, the president of the Florida-based International Softball Federation, said after Thursday’s vote, “but it’s an anti-American thing.”

Baseball suffered from other issues as well. Major league players do not play at the Olympics, and moreover, the 2005 major league season was dogged by doping issues.

Softball, in the minds of many voters, was simply baseball for women. “The dreams of young people from around the world who aspire to compete in the Olympic Games in softball and baseball were dealt a setback today,” USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth said in a statement.

The outcome will save about $45 million for London 2012 organizers, according to Keith Mills, deputy chairman of the London organizing committee. He said that London’s bid had assumed 28 sports, not 26, and so had built those costs into the plans.

Rogge said at the start of Thursday’s session that he had received a petition, signed by 45 members, asking for reconsideration. Rogge then made the vote a two-part process. The first vote asked the IOC members to decide whether there should be a second vote -- the second vote being a formal vote for reconsideration.

Rogge also paired the sports for discussion, rather than considering them separately, as softball proponents had hoped.

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The voting began with baseball, and it went down in minutes.

Then softball went down too.

“I understand the disappointment of those who pleaded for the reintegration of the two sports,” Rogge said. “But there is one fundamental issue here. The IOC session here twice took the same decision. And that is something I believe we have to respect.”

Of course, said softball’s Porter. But he said the vote “had nothing to do with our sport.”

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He added, “Pure and simple, it’s a political decision to protect the image of the president. That’s politics. It’s how things are. But it affected our sport, affected our athletes, affected our future athletes. In many ways, that’s what’s disturbing.”


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