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The history of softball in the Olympics

August 29, 2022

The history of softball in the Olympics

The history of softball in the Olympics


Softball is an incredible sport and is hugely popular in the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and China. However, despite this popularity, on a global scale, softball is quite unknown and under-practiced. Of course, many of us can remember playing softball at school, but professionally and competitively, it is not widely played.


This has led to a disjointed and disappointing history for Olympic softball since its initial inclusion in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Indeed, there are only 14 teams that have participated in Olympic softball, and only four teams that have managed to field a team for all five events – Australia, Canada, Japan and China.


The United States is currently the most decorated team, reaching the final in all five Olympics and winning three gold medals. Close behind them are the current reigning champions, Japan, who won the last two tournaments and have also claimed silver and bronze medals.


Due to its limited popularity, softball is not a guaranteed sport for the Olympics. This should hopefully change as the sport develops. Additionally, we can make use of services such as NRFI stats updated to improve complementary activities like softball and baseball sports betting. Options like these push the game forward, but it is important to look at the history of softball too, and how it has previously failed.


Initial inclusion – 1996 to 2008 Summer Olympics


Up until the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, there were numerous attempts at including softball. This started in the 1940s, with efforts from America, Japan and Australia. However, the sport was always met with barriers such as a lack of interest, or it placing too much of a burden on the Olympic committees and host nations.


This changed and women’s softball was eventually included as an official medal sport at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. The decision was made in 1995 and this resulted in softball being part of the next four games – from 1996 to 2008.


During this time, the sport enjoyed excellent support and it was a joy to see international teams getting recognition and being able to compete against the other top nations. The dominating team for the most part was, of course, the USA, but the competitions were still intense and resulted in some fantastic matches.


Expulsion years – 2008 to 2020


Softball, however, suffered a huge decline and the IOC voted to drop both softball and baseball from the 2012 Olympics. The vote was incredibly close and ended with 52 voting for, 52 against, and one absent voter. That absent voter could have changed the entire course of Olympic softball history, but sadly, the draw meant that the sport was expelled.


This was actually the first time since 1936 that a sport had been removed from the Olympics after being included. Obviously, it was a big blow for international softball, and the players and teams were devastated. This Olympic turnaround has also been detrimental for the sport overall, as countries’ governing softball bodies have been less inclined to provide funding to develop the sport further.


Second inclusion – 2020 only


In 2016, a new IOC vote took place, which saw softball and baseball once again being included for the 2020 Summer Olympics. This also saw the inclusion of some other fringe sports, such as karate, surfing and skateboarding.


This reversal of previous votes gave people new hope; however, softball was only included in the 2020 Olympics and has been shelved once again for Paris 2024. Many feel that this is unfair and people wonder how teams and players are expected to manage with this erratic and ever-changing Olympic approach.


Potential future inclusion – Los Angeles 2028


There is hope for the future, however, as tournaments like the 2022 USA Softball Junior Olympic Championship continue to be played. It is clear that softball is a relevant sport, and many hope that it will see a resurgence in the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, when the most prolific competitor – the USA – is involved.



For fans and indeed the teams and players, the story of softball’s history in the Olympic Games is a sad and frustrating one. It continues to bounce in and out of favour, and despite proving popular in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, we don’t expect to see it on the Olympic stage until Los Angeles in 2028. Hopefully, the sport continues to develop and gain traction. If it does, we can dream that it will eventually become a staple sport in the Olympic program and be given the same respect as other sports.



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