The digital clock in London's Trafalgar Square reads just over 270 days.
The 2012 Summer Olympics are rapidly approaching and hundreds of millions of people are waiting for its arrival. Some have been following the upcoming event since the 2008 handover ceremony in Beijing, China. Others, however, will be surprised by the new changes that were implemented since London secured its bid.
The biggest news is the change in sporting events offered this time around. The 2012 Summer Olympics will feature 26 sports, eliminating baseball and softball. Baseball was first introduced as a demonstration Olympic sport in 1912, but wasn't offered again until 1936. Softball, on the other hand, was only recently included, starting in 1996.
In August, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) added women's boxing to replace softball's and baseball's spots, effective for the 2012 games. The committee also discussed the inclusion of golf and rugby for 2016, instead of baseball, karate, roller sports, softball and squash.
While I'm glad that women's boxing will be included and I hope that it will create a domino effect to fully earn equality in women's sports, I don't understand how the IOC determines the sports that are competed. Why include women's boxing? Why eliminate the long-standing tradition of Olympic baseball? Why should softball face elimination after just four Olympics?
If the IOC is thinking that cost is the issue, they should realize that cost shouldn't ultimately determine the inclusion of a sport. London isn't amassing excessive expenses – they're actually saving money. London originally budgeted 7.3 billion pounds – or $11.87 billion – for construction, but in May, the British government announced that the budget was too high and released new figures, decreasing it by $56.7 million, totaling $11.81 billion. If they have extra money for which they originally budgeted, why not include baseball or softball at the very least?
Perhaps the IOC is worried about fan interest; however, the official media guide for the Winter Games in Turin stated that, "There is no other sport, cultural, or political event able to match the world's fascination with an Olympic event. The Opening Ceremony is considered the greatest global TV event of the year in terms of TV audience viewing it. It practically means that on that night, one person out of three on the planet will be tuned in."
I'm sure that soccer yields more viewing, but baseball and softball games aren't ghost towns. In fact, their viewership has been booming within the past few years. The 2010 World Series had 14.3 million viewers, ahead of the 2008 Series' 13.6 million.
Maybe baseball and softball aren't as popular in comparison to the rest of the events, but if the IOC truly wants to achieve their goal of "[contributing] to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit," they should consider the younger generation who gave their hearts and souls to baseball and softball. Without their favorite sports, they're left hopeless and disheartened, knowing that they cannot have a chance at the fantastic opportunity of Olympic competition, or admire the many inspirational role models that the Olympics produce.
If the IOC wants to make things right, the members could at least take competition of the sport into consideration. Already, the IOC requires that for the inclusion of a sport, it must be widely practiced within at least 75 countries on four continents by men and at least 40 countries on three continents by women.
This requirement, however, is so minimal that it allows 26 sports in 38 disciplines for the 2012 games. The IOC should instead consider the contests that are already established for the qualified Olympic sports. Golf, for instance, promotes international competition at least four times a year in the Majors Championships. In the last 20 years alone, there have been Major Championships won by citizens of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Fiji, Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Russia and the United States.
Softball, on the other hand, doesn't offer international competition as often. There is only one professional softball league that features four teams and limited international play. Softball Olympic medalist Jennie Finch puts it best when she said that, "Over 140 countries play this game … you don't have to be 6'4". You don't have to be 200 pounds. We have all different shapes and sizes. The sport tests so many athletic abilities, from hand-eye coordination, to speed, to agility, to quickness. We're finally at the pinnacle. We've finally been established. Please don't take this away."
The IOC should really review their requirements for the selection of Olympic sports, since it evidently has many flaws. I understand that times are changing, and America's pastime isn't as dominant in today's society, but the Olympics are supposed to be about the athletes and the youth. The IOC has gone far enough from their values and objectives that they should question themselves: Who are the Olympics really for?