Softball at the Summer Olympics
|Softball at the Summer Olympics|
Softball at the Summer Olympics was on the Olympic programme from 1996 to 2008. Softball was removed from the programme for 2012 and 2016. Efforts are underway to try to get softball on the programme for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Softball, the Olympic program and Olympic recognition 
Recognition by the Olympic Movement 
The International Softball Federation was affiliated with the Olympic Council by that time in 1956. The sport was formally recognised as an Olympic one in 1967. At this time, it first became eligible for inclusion on the Olympic program.
Early attempts for Olympic inclusion 
During the 1940s, Americans and Japanese were making the first overtures to get softball included on the Olympic programme. This effort was led by the American softball association and Jiro Iwano, Vice President of the Japanese Olympic Committee and President of the Japanese Softball Association.
There were efforts to get softball on the Olympic program during the 1950s. In 1950, the Amateur Softball Association of America sent letters to national organisations asking for assistance in getting the newly created International Olympic Federation to include softball on the Olympic program. Australia received such a letter and responded by asking for additional information. Irene Burrows, the Australian association secretary, was extremely keen to support this and took active steps to try to work on this goal. The Australian Softball Council made an effort in 1952 to get the sport included on the programme and thought they had a decent opportunity at doing just that because the sport had a great deal of popularity, being played in over 15 countries. This effort was mirrored by the Americans with the support of other countries such as New Zealand. Efforts to improve the chances of getting softball on the 1956 programme included having New Zealand's national softball body affiliating with the American one.
These efforts continued into the 1960s, with the International Softball Federation working consistently towards inclusion. They were told in 1965 a requirement of playing the sport at the Olympics as the sport must be played in at least eleven countries who can field teams to compete at the Games and the international governing body for the sport must have at least twenty-nine national federations affiliated with it. At the time, softball only had fifteen national bodies affiliated with it.
Despite being eligible for inclusion on the programme by 1969, it was not because Olympic organisers determined the sport, alongside roller skating and water skiing was "too big and too expensive." Efforts continued to get softball on the Olympic programme during the 1970s, with the hope of the 1984 Summer Olympics being held in the United States meaning softball could at least be a demonstration sport. This did not materialise. The Barcelona Olympic Organising Committee decided to make softball and golf demonstration sports at the 1992 Summer Olympics but the IOC stepped in in 1990 because they felt its inclusion would be an "undue burden" on the organisers. The 1992 Summer Olympics frustrated softball organisers because baseball was to be a medal sport at the Games as a men's only event.
Inclusion on the Olympic programme 
Softball was introduced as an Olympic sport for women-only in the 1996 Summer Olympics. The decision to add the sport to the 1996 Olympic programme was made in 1995. The IOC had a committee called the International Olympic Committee on Women and Sports. Anita DeFranz became the committee's chair in 1992 and would be instrumental in helping get softball on the Olympic programme.
Expulsion from the Olympic programme 
On July 11, 2005, the IOC voted to drop baseball and softball from the Olympic program for 2012, a decision that was reaffirmed on February 9, 2006. The vote to keep softball on the programme required a simple majority of the 105 eligible voters, but the vote ended up as 52-52 with one abstention. It was officially decided in August 2009 at IOC Board meeting in Berlin that it will not be included in the 2016 Summer Olympics. This was the first time in 69 years that sports had been removed from the Olympic programme, with polo the sport removed in 1936. The selection of which sports to include on the London Programme was done via secret ballot. Their decision to include two other sports, golf and rugby sevens, on the Olympic programme was perceived by the softball community as a likely end of their ability to get back onto the Olympic programme. On April 1, 2011, the International Softball Federation and International Baseball Federation announced they were preparing a joint proposal to revive play of both sports at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The decision to remove softball from the Olympics in advance of the Beijing Games created a sense of urgency for some development players to make their senior national teams by 2008 as they would not otherwise have a chance to compete at the Olympics.
The removal of softball from the Olympics has had an adverse impact on the game: Australia's government gave less funding to the sport as a result of the decision. This means players are able to do less international travel and compete at the highest levels.
Women's softball was the female version of baseball played at the Games since women's baseball was not included on the programme. Rule differences between Olympic softball and baseball included: 1) ball is pitched underhand. The ball must weigh between 6.25 ounces (177 g) and 7 ounces (200 g). The pitcher's mound is the same height at the rest of the playing surface, with the infield being covered in dirt instead of grass. The distance of the outfield fence is measured from home plate at 200 feet (61 m) and the distance between bases is 60 feet (18 m) instead of the 90 feet (27 m) of Olympic baseball. Games at the Olympics have seven innings compared to baseball's nine innings. If a game is tied at the end of regular play, like baseball, extra half innings are played but in softball, a runner starts on second base.
At the Olympics, eight teams competed being chosen to compete at the Olympics based on the following criteria: One team was the host nation. Four teams were chosen because they were the semifinalists at the most recent ISF Women's World Championship. The three remaining nations were chosen based on regional qualification tournaments. The preliminary round of competition was formatted as a round robin competition, with the top four point earning teams advancing to the semifinals. During this stage, the semifinal team with the best record automatically advanced to the finals. "[T]he other semifinal winner plays the team that lost to the superior seminal winner. The winner of this game goes to the final."
At the Games 
1996 Summer Olympics 
The softball games were held in Columbus, Georgia (approximately 100 miles from the main Olympic Games site of Atlanta, Georgia). Countries competing at the 1996Summer Olympics included the United States, China, Australia, Japan, Canada, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico. This was the first time softball was on the Olympic programme. The United States finished first, China second and Australia third.
2000 Summer Olympics 
The Games were held in Sydney, Australia. Countries competing at the 2000 Summer Olympics included the United States, Japan, Australia, China, Italy, New Zealand, Cuba and Canada.
2004 Summer Olympics 
The Games were held in Athens, Greece. Countries competing at the 2004 Summer Olympics included the United States, Australia, Japan, China, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Greece and Italy.
Australia won a silver medal at the Games.
2008 Summer Olympics 
The 2006 edition of the ISF Women's World Championship was very important as the Championships were used for Olympic qualifying, with the top four finishers going to the Olympic Games. In 2006, the fourth place finishers automatically qualified to the Games because China was the Olympic Games based on that. Thus, there was a battle for fifth place between Canada and Italy for Olympic qualifications. In the match for fifth, Canada won 3-0 and earned their fourth consecutive trip to the Olympics.
Japan won the 2008 Summer Olympics softball gold medal, with the United States taking home silver.
The first side to beat the host country in softball was Australia at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Interestingly, the USA team lost this game primarily because of a base running error in which a home run was hit but the runner failed to touch home plate during the celebration at the plate, resulting in the run not scoring and an out being called. Australia won this game by one run. However, the USA team rebounded to win the overall tournament and the gold.
The United States had a 22 game winning streak at the Olympics between 2000 and 2008, only ending their winning steak in the gold medal match against Japan.
Medal table 
At the inaugural appearance of the event on the Olympic programme, the United States took gold and losing one game on the way there. They beat other medal favourites Australia and China. The United States repeated their victory at the 2000 Games when they beat Japan 3-1 in the gold medal game and again in 2004.
|1||United States (USA)||3||1||0||4|
|1996 Atlanta||United States (USA)||China (CHN)||Australia (AUS)|
|2000 Sydney||United States (USA)||Japan (JPN)||Australia (AUS)|
|2004 Athens||United States (USA)||Australia (AUS)||Japan (JPN)|
|2008 Beijing||Japan (JPN)||United States (USA)||Australia (AUS)|
Participating nations 
See also 
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