Week 137 (28 May - 3 June 2016)
Baseball / softball's return to the Olympic Games was all but confirmed this week after the IOC Executive Board voted for the sport to be included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Whilst the full IOC membership will need to ratify the sport's inclusion for 2020 at the IOC Session in Rio in August, the Executive Board's decision this week in Lausanne should prove to be the key moment in the World Baseball Softball Confederation's (WBSC) campaign for the sport to return to the Olympic Games since the two disciplines were separate sports on the Beijing 2008 programme.
Four other sports – surfing, skateboarding, karate and sports climbing – were also voted for inclusion in 2020 as the IOC continues to walk the walk by following through with its Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations such as moving from a sport-based to an event-based programme for the Olympic Games.
Baseball / softball fits that bill perfectly with baseball being a hugely popular spectator sport in Japan whilst softball was the sport in which Japan's women upset the odds to defeat the USA and win gold at Beijing 2008.
But of course, in sports political campaigning, nothing can be taken for granted. The professional, organised and respectful campaign run by WBSC stands testimony to that. Nothing was overlooked in the WBSC's campaign and, furthermore, they played their ace card – WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari – at every opportunity.
Throughout the campaign and in the years leading up to Wednesday's decision, Fraccari, 67, has shown himself to be a true Olympic Movement statesmen. His deferential manner would have charmed the IOC and his ability to turn a phrase made him a great spokesman for baseball / softball's cause.
During the campaign, the Olympic Movement has been treated to his simple yet effective one-liners: "An Olympic programme needs bat and ball sports" – to his baseball / softball analogies: "The entire baseball and softball world is excited and ready to cross the Olympic home plate" – to his ability to deliver key messages via spoken or written communications: "We have developed into a gender-balanced global sport, which represents 65 million athletes from 213 National Federations and Associate Members in over 140 countries" he wrote in his column in sport intern this week.
The overall effect of Fraccari's communications is to create a watchable and readable spokesperson who engages his audiences via every medium.
His communication skills undoubtedly lend themselves to the negotiating table, which is further good news for baseball / softball as the WBSC attempts to negotiate the presence of players from the top professional leagues to compete at Tokyo 2020.