INCHEON, South Korea (AP) The adoption of a more flexible approach to the Olympic program could allow for the return of baseball and other sports that have been dropped from the games, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Saturday.
Asked on the sidelines of meetings at the Asian Games, Bach declined to comment specifically on baseball's suitability for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The sport is hugely popular in Japan, as well as in Taiwan and South Korea, adding momentum to the drive to have it reinstated.
However, Bach said that an IOC vote in December on rules for including new sports could open the way for further talks on the subject. He advocates changing the rules to make it easier to drop and add sports in order to increase the variety and appeal of the Olympics.
''We have to discuss about the procedures first, how we can make the composition of the program more flexible, and afterward we can discuss about individual sports and disciplines. But first we have to win the votes in December,'' Bach said.
Baseball and softball appeared in the Olympics from 1992 to 2008, but IOC members voted in 2005 to drop them from the program - the first sports to be excluded since polo in 1936. That decision affected about 300 athletes, half of them women.
The sports were eventually replaced by golf and rugby sevens, both of which will join the program at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Critics of the inclusion of baseball and softball point to their lack of appeal in Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia, as well as a lack of competitiveness because of the unwillingness of Major League Baseball teams to release players for national duty at the height of the baseball season in North America.