Tragic and UnAmerican B.S.
IOC president Jacques Rogge (search) said baseball and softball, two sports invented in America, would be eligible to win their way back into the Olympics for 2016.
Baseball and softball, which will remain on the program for the 2008 Beijing Games, are the first sports eliminated from the Olympics since polo in 1936.
"I think they've made a big, big mistake," said Tom Lasorda, the former Dodgers manager who guided the U.S. team to the gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. "Baseball is played by all countries now, and softball, too. I think that's really going to hurt the Olympics."
Bob DuPuy, the major leagues' chief operating officer, said the IOC's decision will "adversely affect millions of sports fans worldwide."
With two slots open on the program, the IOC voted from a waiting list of five sports: golf, rugby, squash, karate and roller sports. Squash and karate were nominated but rejected overwhelmingly, failing to get two-thirds approval.
Dropping baseball and softball will remove 16 teams and more than 300 athletes from the Olympics.
Baseball, which became a medal sport in 1992, has been vulnerable because of steroids in the major leagues and the absence of major leaguers from the Olympics. Softball, a women's only medal sport since 1996 won all three times by the United States, has been in danger because of its association with baseball and a perceived lack of global appeal and participation.
"The lack of the MLB players — I think people have looked and said, `Well, all right, if there's to be a change, that seems to be the logic of it,"' British IOC member Craig Reedie said.
Among the players who competed in the Olympics before starring in the majors are Jason Giambi, Jason Varitek, Nomar Garciaparra and Ben Sheets.
Major League Baseball has toughened its drug-testing programs, but they still fall far short of Olympic standards.
"Problems with doping in U.S. baseball probably cost the sport dearly," Australian IOC member John Coates said.
Several IOC members also cited high stadium costs associated with both sports, saying baseball and softball venues have little use in some host cities after the games.
"I feel like somebody who has been thrown out — it's certainly not a good feeling," said Aldo Notari, the Italian president of the International Baseball Federation. "I don't think the IOC members know our sport deeply enough."
Don Porter, the American president of the international softball federation, said his sport's ties to baseball created problems.
"We tried to keep our distance," he said. "But I think there's still too many people think we're part of baseball. We're absolutely not."
Cuba has won three of the four gold medals since baseball was first played at the Olympics — in 1992, 1996 and 2004.
"Those who bear most of the blame are the owners of the professional leagues who refuse to free up their ballplayers to compete," Cuban Baseball Federation president Carlos Rodriguez told The Associated Press in Havana.
"Baseball will go on just fine," union head Donald Fehr said. "It's never depended in any way, shape or form even slightly on the Olympics."
Padres chief executive officer Sandy Alderson was in Singapore to lobby to keep baseball in the Olympics. The major leagues and its players' union plan to launch on Monday the World Baseball Classic, a 16-nation tournament that will begin in March and feature players on big league rosters.
Japan, the bronze medalist in 2004, was one of the few nations that sent its top professional baseball players to Athens.
"This really hurts Japan," Japan Olympic Committee secretary general Tsutomu Hayashi said. "Baseball and softball are both team sports that draw a lot of excitement and are the only ones that medals are a virtual certainty."
Members voted 63-39 against squash and 63-38 against karate. Rogge had proposed a show of hands for approval of the two sports, but was booed by delegates and forced to stick with a secret vote. It was a stunning conclusion to a complex procedure that took nine rounds of voting.
"Nobody was happy with the outcome in the morning, nobody was happy with the result of the afternoon," senior Canadian member Dick Pound said. "And we've lost two sports and done nothing to replace them."
The vote to eliminate sports was kept secret. Not even the IOC members or sports federations were given the totals. The international federations wanted to avoid any ranking or embarrassment for sports just making the cut.
"What kind of message does the IOC send when there is complete secrecy on an issue that is important to the world?" Pound said.