The International Olympic Committee had voted to remove softball from the program for the 2012 Olympics. Many theories abound, but the most common one is that the U.S. teams are simply too dominant in the sport, having won gold in the previous three Olympics and winning them convincingly. 2008 was the last time that softball will be contested at the Olympics unless it is reinstated at a future date. The IOC declined to include softball in the 2016 Summer Olympics at its October 2009 meeting.
In one of the major upsets of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Japan defeated U.S. 3-1 to win the gold medal. The Americans have won gold and dominated their opponents in the previous three Olympics. This is the only Olympic Softball Gold Medal that the U.S. has not won. Their dominance was cited as one of the reasons why the IOC voted to drop the sport from the 2012 Olympics.
Eight teams compete in the Olympic softball tournament, and the competition consists of two rounds. The preliminary round follows a round robin format, where each of the teams plays all the other teams once. Following this, the top four teams advance to a page playoff system round consisting of two semifinal games, and finally the bronze and gold medal games.
The eight teams in the Olympic softball tournament will qualify through a series of tournaments. China, as the host nation, is guaranteed one automatic entry. The top four finalists at the 2006 Softball World Championships will be qualified for the Olympic tournament. Finally, there will be continental qualifying tournaments for Europe/Africa, Pan-America, and Asia/Oceania, with the winners of each tournament earning a spot in the Olympic tournament.
The loser of 1&2 seed game will play the winner of the 3&4 seed game in the bronze medal match. The loser of the bronze medal match wins the bronze medal while the winner goes on to play the winner of the 1&2 seed game for the gold medal in the gold medal match.