BY KEN MORITSUGU
TOKYO (AP) — Baseball and softball were joined by youth-oriented sports such as surfing and skateboarding as Japanese organizers on Monday recommended five additional sports with 18 events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Karate and sports climbing were also on the list proposed by the Tokyo organizing committee. Bowling, squash and wushu failed to make the cut from among eight finalists.
The recommendation will be submitted to the International Olympic Committee, which will make a final decision in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016.
Under the “Olympic Agenda 2020” program adopted by the IOC last December, host cities are allowed to propose one or more additional sports for their games. That’s on top of the 28 sports already on the program.
Tokyo had been generally expected to nominate one or two. By choosing five sports, organizers made sure to include those important to Japan — baseball and karate — as well as meet the IOC’s call that additional sports have a strong youth appeal.
“It was quite a difficult task,” said Toshiyuki Akiyama, vice governor of Tokyo and a member of the additional event program panel. “Baseball, softball and karate were proposed and supported by the Tokyo metropolitan assembly. As for skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing, the key word is youth.”
The proposed events would add 474 athletes to the games, a total that fits within the cap of 500 additional athletes set by the IOC.
To stay within the limits, the Tokyo committee cut baseball to six teams from eight, and limited sports such as surfing to two events, shortboard for men and women.
“We know younger people tend to stay indoors nowadays, and we believe we included events that will drive people outside,” said Tomiaki Fukuda, the president of the Japan Wrestling Federation. “It will create a new image for the Olympic Games.”
Fujio Mitarai, the honorary president of the organizing committee, noted that skateboarding is an urban sport, fitting for a metropolis like Tokyo.
The recommendations were welcomed by the IOC, which has not said how many sports it would add, if any.
“This is another concrete step forward in the implementation of Olympic Agenda 2020, showing a new, fresh and very exciting approach to the Olympic program,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “The proposal … reflects … a particular appeal to youth.”
Twenty-six sports had originally applied for consideration. The eight sports made a short list that was announced in June.
Baseball and softball have been out of the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games, and their proposed inclusion as a joint bid had been considered a virtual certainty because of the high popularity of those sports in Japan.
“We’ve reached second base,” World Baseball Softball Confederation president Riccardo Fraccari told The Associated Press in Italy. “Now we’ve got to wait until Rio to get home.”
Under Tokyo’s recommendations, the men’s baseball tournament would consist of six teams and 144 total players, while the women’s softball competition would have six teams and 90 players.
Fraccari had proposed an eight-team baseball tournament with two groups of four teams each playing over five days.
“With six teams we need to analyze what type of format we can arrange,” Fraccari said. “We have to rearrange everything and see what we can propose.”
There are still no assurances that U.S. major league players would take part.
“We’re in discussions and we have a great relationship with MLB,” Fraccari said. “We have plenty of time to discuss before 2020.”
Karate would have eight men’s and women’s Kumite and Kata events and a total of 80 athletes; skateboarding proposes two street and two park events for 80 athletes; sports climbing has two events in bouldering, lead and speed combined for 40 athletes; and surfing would have two shortboard events for 40 competitors.
International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre called the announcement “an extraordinary moment for our sport.”
“Surfing embodies a cool, playful lifestyle that would add a completely new element to the program,” he said.
For squash, meanwhile, it marked the sport’s latest in a series of rejections for Olympic inclusion over the past 12 years.
“I am utterly devastated … that our dream of taking part in the Tokyo Games cannot now be realized,” World Squash Federation president N. Ramachandran, adding that he would continue to push for inclusion in future Olympics.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.
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