Which sports were pulled from the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and are returning in Tokyo 2021?
Dropped from the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games baseball and softball will return to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with Japan and the US favored to win.
Baseball and softball were voted out of the Olympics program in 2005 by the International Olympic Committee. However, the host nation for this year’s Games is a hotbed of both baseball and softball, successfully got the two sports back in, at least for this year.
Baseball first entered the Olympics list of medal sports in 1992 and softball joined the line-up four years later. The games were pulled from the roster for not being global enough and in the case of baseball, the best players didn’t participate since the Games take place in the middle of the season.
In both baseball and softball, there are six teams competing in a round-robin tournament. The top four teams will move on to the medal round. The Olympics officially kick off 23 July, but the first softball games were played 20 July.
Japan the favorite to win baseball Gold
Despite the US being the biggest market for baseball, it has only won Gold once, at the 2000 Sydney Games. Team USA struggled to qualify for this year’s Games lacking any active MLB talent since the league is not stopping for the Olympics. The 24-member squad is composed of minor league players and former MLB All-Stars.
The team expected to take home the Gold is Japan. The country’s professional baseball league put the season on hold allowing its best player the chance to participate.
In all six national teams will compete including Israel, Mexico, South Korea and the Dominican Republic.
Team USA and Japan favorites for softball Gold
The US (No. 1) and Japan (No. 2) have a long rivalry, they’ve met in the final of every world championship dating back to 2002. The United States bagged the Gold in three consecutive Olympic Games after softball became a medal-winning sport in 1996, but had to settle for a silver in 2008 after a heart-breaking upset by Japan.
This year the US will try to reclaim the top podium. The two teams will first play each other on the final day of the tournament's round-robin segment 25 July at 9 pm ET.
Their quest for the Gold won’t be a walk in the park. The two teams will have to get past some tough competition in the round-robin tournament including Australia, Canada, Italy and Mexico.