Tokyo Shortlists Baseball, Softball, Karate for 2020 Olympics

Tokyo has shortlisted baseball, softball and karate among nine additional candidate events for the 2020 Olympics in Japan’s capital.

Bowling, roller sports, climbing, squash, surfing and wushu were also listed Monday in a statement handed to reporters by the Tokyo 2020 Additional Event Programme Panel. Twenty-six international sports federations applied for inclusion, with the likes of tug-of-war, chess, bridge and sumo missing out.

Shortlisted events will be required to provide more information before Tokyo 2020 submits its final proposal to the International Olympic Committee by the end of September. The IOC’s verdict will come in 2016.

Additional events can offer host countries an opportunity to include sports in which they are particularly strong.

Among the criteria for selection were “how much excitement they can create among the Japanese people in line with the Tokyo 2020 vision,” panel chairman Fujio Mitarai told reporters. Transparency and fairness were also taken into consideration, he said.

One of Japan’s most popular martial arts, karate is believed to have developed on the southern island of Okinawa and spread to the main islands of Japan in the 20th century, according to the Karate International website. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a close aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is chairman of a lawmakers’ group for the promotion of karate.

Baseball Staple

Baseball has been a staple of Japanese culture for more than a century after being introduced by the U.S. in the 1870s, according to an essay on the website of the Japanese embassy in Washington. While the sport fell from favor during World War II, interest quickly revived and stars including Ichiro Suzuki have become household names after successful careers both in Japan and the U.S. Major Leagues.

Japan won the right to host the 2020 Games over Madrid and Istanbul after Abe flew to Buenos Aires in 2013 to make a final pitch. He vowed that the problem of radiation leakage after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster would be resolved before the event.

Initial jubilation over the victory has been clouded in recent months by a row over the cost of building a flagship stadium in Tokyo designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

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