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Thursday, January 22, 2004



[ OLYMPICS ]


IPSF looks at keeping
baseball, softball
in Olympics

The Olympic committees from
several countries met at College Hill
to discuss issues


America's pastime might be past its time soon in the Olympics, as baseball is among sports on the endangered species list for continued competition in The Games.

In fact, the U.S. might have played its last Olympic baseball, since it did not qualify for Athens this year, and baseball and softball could be out for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of Major League Baseball, was in town this week to lobby delegates of the inaugural International Pacific Sports Forum. The IPSF, which included representatives from the Olympic committees of Canada, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the United States, wrapped up a two-day forum with a reception at College Hill last night.

Alderson had already left for the mainland, but it was evident he'd made his point.

"There's a misconception about baseball and softball and some of our other events, and we certainly hope those events will stay on the program. (Critics say) they're too expensive, they don't have enough international appeal," said Greg Harney, USOC managing director of international affairs.

"(Alderson) had the opportunity to talk to delegates about how baseball is interested in what they might be able to do on a range of issues, including involvement of (Major League) players on a case-by-case basis," Harney added.

University of Hawaii softball coach Bob Coolen said the IPSF could also help his sport get a reprieve through open dialogue and synergy.

"I think this sends a message that this is a great steppingstone to keeping baseball and softball, and adding whatever they want to add," said Coolen, who cited Japan, Canada and Australia as countries participating in the forum that would like to keep softball in the Olympics.

Chris Rudge, the secretary general of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said the IPSF is important because Pacific Rim countries need to determine common interests and goals.

"I think one of the things you find in the Olympic movement is it's a very Eurocentric organization. So all those European countries are together all the time, probably doing this kind of thing. This gives us a chance to work together in a more intimate way," Rudge said. "Some meetings involve 100 or 200 delegates. You get caught up in very short meetings and a lot of glad-handing. Here we had six countries. We put together an agenda of things we thought useful."

One of those things was how the countries can help each other.

"Take a country like Canada -- we're very strong in the winter sports. New Zealand is not. We can help them with their programs, and so on," Rudge said.

Curt Hamakawa is the director for international relations of the USOC. He is also a Hilo High School and University of Hawaii graduate who saw his worlds come together this week.

"We (the various nations' Olympic committees) face similar problems and similar opportunities," Hamakawa said. "Part of my job is to develop closer ties with our counterparts so we can work together on strategic interests."

The forum was facilitated by UH athletic director Herman Frazier, an Olympic medalist in track and field and USOC vice president who will be the chef de mission for the USA team in Athens.

"We probably should have done this years ago, decades ago," Harney said of the forum.

UH president Evan Dobelle is supportive of the Olympics. He and Frazier continually look for opportunities to host trials and training events.

"The Olympic spirit is a tremendous one and we're thrilled Hawaii might be able to play a part," Dobelle said.

The U.S. triathlon trials are here April 18. There's also the possibility of Hawaii taking a regular turn at hosting Pacific Rim Games similar in scope to the Pan Am Games.

"We hope to get all the different sports together and make a multi-sport festival in the Pacific, including Hawaii," Harney said.

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