Denying them a league of their own

Aug. 14, 2009, midnight | By Blake Morgan-Gamber | 14 years, 8 months ago

Flash forward to August 2012. A time sports fanatics all over the world crave every four years has finally come. But the quadrennial summer Olympic Games in London will be missing something that will bring disappointment to young female athletes around the world: fastpitch softball.

Graphic by Elaine Lin.

In July 2005, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to drop softball from the London Summer Olympic Games in 2012, making it the first sports to be cut from the Olympics since 1936. For a sport to be recognized as an ongoing part of the Olympic Games, it must receive a majority vote from members of the IOC. This is where softball struck out.

Fastpitch softball was first introduced to the 1996 summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, and received major international attention ever since. It has not been clarified why the sport was cut but it is possible that the IOC feared USA softball dominance. Yes, the sport originated in the United States. Yes, softball players on team USA have dominated from a statistical standpoint. But the USA team has left plenty of room for international competition. In fact, though the United States secured the gold with relative ease in the 1996 games, in subsequent years Australia and Japan posed a threat to the USA squad. Their dominance was not always assured.

Due to similar concerns about U.S. dominance, until 1988, NBA basketball players were excluded from the summer Games to create an even playing field for the basketball players of other nations. Since the Olympics were intended for amateur athletes, it was regarded as unfair to allow professional athletes, who make millions of dollars a year, to participate in the Games. As a result, team USA's basketball team gave college players the opportunity to represent the United States.

However, when NBA players were allowed to participate in the 1992 Barcelona Games, team USA conquered every team in their path. Although they heavily dominated, the NBA players were never prohibited from participating and the sport was never cut.

Furthermore, because team USA has such a strong softball organization, USA softball's participation in the Olympic Games encourages female athletes around the world to try the sport. Certainly, taking a sport out of the Olympics will not help it to grow in popularity. As part of the summer games, the sport was sure to continue to attract more fans and more players worldwide.

It is unjust to discontinue a sport because one team might have dominated; removing softball from the Olympic summer games cut the sport short before it had the opportunity to attract competitors across the globe. Ultimately, the goal of the Olympic Games is to provide amateur athletes with the opportunity to represent their country at an international level and cutting a sport from the games so abruptly is contradictory to that founding principle. Moreover, cutting a popular women's sport from the field of competition makes it more difficult for women athletes to receive the type of attention they deserve nationally and internationally.

Blake Morgan-Gamber. Blake Morgan-Gamber is a rare specimen with two last names; she woos women and men alike with her fanciful features writing and sumptuous sports editing. But do not be lulled by this siren, though BMG is a creature of beauty, there's many amazing talents inside … More »

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