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U.S. dominance poses no threat to Olympic softball's survival
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19:48, August 16, 2008

Is it true that Olympic softball might have a better chance of survival if the U.S. team were to lose the gold medal in Beijing? The governor of the sport doesn't think so.

"Dominance by one team or athlete in any one sport is what goes on in Olympic competition," Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation (ISF) told Xinhua on Saturday.

"What we need to do is introduce the American experience into other teams. We shouldn't blame who is strong in softball, but (need) to improve the level of competition in the weaker team," he added.

Softball, which was introduced at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, was voted out of the program of the 2012 London Games after failing to garner more than half of the votes from the 100-plus members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its 117th Session in 2005.

Even now the Olympic future of softball is unpredictable, and the American women's domination on the diamond is less in doubt.

The U.S. team have wrapped up all the golds up to now, boasting an Olympic win-loss record of 24-4.

In the ongoing Olympic softball tournament, the undefeated U.S. team now leads the eight-team standings after five days of competition, outscoring opponents 36-1.

Porter said the lack of more teams to compete in the event was one of the reasons for the less competitive games.

"Unfortunately, we have requested more teams but the IOC has denied that. Right now we're very limited and we lack representation from certain regions. We'll work towards expanding to maximize participation in as many events as we can."

To improve the level of competition, the federation officials are making a push to boost softball's exposure in Africa and the Middle East. According to Porter, half of the African countries now have their softball teams and 18 nations have established the governing associations.

"In 2017, a youth softball championship will be held in Cape Town and we also will have a championship in Zambia in 2010.

"The Middle East is also an important area in making the sport more popular. In Jordan, we already have a national federation," said Porter.

Even though the sport is becoming more popular than before around the world, the reinstatement process will not be easy.

Softball will compete with baseball, golf, rugby, karate, squash and roller sports to prove worthy of inclusion in the 2016 Olympic lineup.

The sports will be selected based on a number of criteria. Key issues include global participation, spectator attendance, anti-doping policies, and whether the sport brings the world's top athletes to the Games.

But Porter was confident that his sport will exceed the others in next year's IOC vote.

"One thing I feel very strongly is that softball (has) encompassed many of the things that the IOC looks for in a sport. One is the lack of any doping problems, two is female participation, and three is youth participation," said Porter.

The president also aimed to push the sport's popularity around China in the future.

"Softball is easy to play and I think more and more Chinese people can learn to play it well," said Porter, adding that the sport has many advantages and charms.

"I think the most attractive thing of it is the athletes. They have spectacular skills, are pretty and easy to play. We don't have to play the game in luxurious venues but we can play it at the beach and we have wheelchair softball."

Source: Xinhua

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