Int’l. crowds flock to FTS as Olympic softball delights fans

softballDon Porter: “I get a lump in my throat when I see such enthusiasm from the fans”
IOC Member Austin Sealy: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see softball back for 2016”: Thousands of international fans packed the Fengtai Field stadium in Beijing on Tuesday as the eight women’s fast pitch teams got the fourth Olympic softball tournament underway.

International Softball Federation President Don Porter saw supporters from at least a dozen different nations, waving their flags and cheering on the teams competing in the tournament, which climaxes in the grand final on August 21st.

Beijing, China (RUSHPRNEWS)13th August 2008

Porter, who is also in Beijing to promote the BackSoftball campaign to get the sport reinstated in October 2009 onto the Olympic programme for 2016, was delighted with the support from the fans.

He said, “I get a lump in my throat when I see such enthusiasm from the fans. Everyone has shown the Olympic spirit, with people from all over the globe coming to watch the games and participating in the party atmosphere around the grounds. The Olympic spirit is alive and pitching at Fengtai Field.”

Austin Sealy, an International Olympic Committee Member from Barbados, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the opening game between Chinese Taipei and Canada and was full of praise for the Olympic competition.

Sealy said, “With the support that comes from my immediate circle for women being involved in sport, we see softball as a game with contact and coordination as a natural thing for the Caribbean region.

“Here in Beijing, I hadn’t been able to get to this venue since its completion but in the lead up to the Games, in the preparative years, I visited the stadium and it looks like a wonderful facility. I would encourage all my colleagues to come out and see because the exclusion of softball from London 2012 is going to be reviewed and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it back with us for 2016.”

Dutch fan Jaap Tuk, from Rotterdam, voiced his support for the BackSoftball campaign, saying, “I would love to see softball come back into the Olympics. It’s a sport played all over the world from Asia to the Americas to Europe and you can see from how packed the stadium is that it means a lot to the Olympics. The atmosphere has been great because softball brings people together.”

Canadian fan Nicki Robinson from Saskatchewan is disappointed the sport will not be contested at London 2012.

She said, “I’ve come all the way to China just to see the softball tournament because it won’t be at the London Olympics and I really hope I get another chance in years to come. It’s a clean sport that is so popular and I know everyone in the stadium and back in Canada is praying it gets reinstated.”

Zhang Yukin from Guang Dong province believes softball will continue to grow, especially if Olympic competition is possible once more.

She said, “Softball has become very popular in China and it will continue to rise in popularity, especially if we can contest Olympic medals again. The Olympics definitely gives the sport a bigger profile and I’ve seen today how the sport can cultivate the emotions in a special way.”

Di Stevens from Melbourne, Australia, even believes that slow pitch softball would enhance the Olympics. She said, “If we could have a mixed version of the game at the Olympics, along with the women’s fast pitch, it would be something you don’t see in many team sports at the Olympics and that would be great. Looking at the crowds here today shows how everyone gets involved and how entertaining it all is.”

Chris Brown from London added his disappointment about softball missing out in 2012, saying, “I play for a team in the Greater London Mixed Softball League and my team and others were all gutted when softball was taken off the programme for our home Olympic tournament. The sport is growing at such a fast rate because it’s fun, easily played by all age groups, and is always played in the right spirit.”

The 300,000+ tickets for all softball games in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games sold out earlier this year, further underlining the strength of the global BackSoftball campaign.

The eight teams that are competing in the Olympic Games from August 12-21 are Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Netherlands, USA, and Venezuela.

The aim is for softball to return as a sport on the 2016 Games programme after missing out by the narrowest of margins (only one vote) for the London 2012 programme at the 2005 Session of the International Olympic Committee.

Further information is available in the OTHER DOCUMENTS section of www.BackSoftball.com.

For more information contact:
ISF Director of Communications Bruce Wawrzyniak at brucew@internationalsoftball.com or Beijing Mobile +86 136 8157 0417
OR

Back Softball Media Relations Director Laura Walden at lwalden@backsoftball.com or Beijing Mobile +86 136 8157 6445