Baseball at the Summer Olympics

Baseball at the Summer Olympics unofficially debuted at the 1904 Summer Olympics and became an official Olympic sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics. The event was last played in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, with South Korea taking the gold; the sport was dropped from the Summer Olympic program but will be revived as part of the program for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for a one off appearance .

Baseball at the Summer Olympics
Governing bodyWBSC
Events1 (men)
Note: demonstration or exhibition sport years indicated in italics

Olympic baseball is governed by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).


Although little was recorded, Olympic baseball first appeared at the 1904 St. Louis games. Eight years later, in 1912, in Stockholm, a United States team played against host Sweden, winning 13–3. Baseball was also played at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, the American team beating the French team 5–0 in a four-inning exhibition game. In 1936, in Berlin, two United States teams played each other before approximately 90,000–100,000 spectators at the Reichsportsfeld.[1] The 1952 Helsinki event was a modified form of the sport, Finnish baseball, played by two Finnish teams. Australia played a one-game exhibition against the United States in 1956 Melbourne and Japan did the same in 1964 in Tokyo. With a crowd of nearly 114,000 spectators, this game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground held the record for the highest attended exhibition baseball game ever until a 2008 American game in Los Angeles.[2]

After a twenty-year hiatus, Olympic baseball (labelled an exhibition sport/event by the IOC) returned but with tournament formatting (1984 Los Angeles). At the 1988 Seoul games, it was termed a demonstration sport. Japan defeated the United States in the inaugural tournament finale in 1984. In 1988, the United States won over Japan.

Baseball was open only to male amateurs in 1992 and 1996. As a result, the Americans and other nations where professional baseball is developed relied on collegiate players, while Cubans used their most experienced veterans, who technically were considered amateurs as they nominally held other jobs, but in fact trained full-time. In 2000, pros were admitted, but the MLB refused to release its players in 2000, 2004, and 2008, and the situation changed only a little: the Cubans still used their best players, while the Americans started using minor leaguers. The IOC cited the absence of the best players as the main reason for baseball being dropped from the Olympic program.[3][4]

At the IOC meeting on July 7, 2005, baseball and softball were voted out of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom, becoming the first sports voted out of the Olympics since polo was eliminated from the 1936 Olympics.[5] The elimination excised 16 teams and more than 300 athletes from the 2012 Olympics. The two slots left available by the IOC's elimination were subsequently filled by golf and rugby sevens in 2016. This decision was reaffirmed on February 9, 2006.[6] In the stands during the 2008 bronze medal game between the U.S. and Japan, IOC head Jacques Rogge was interviewed by's Mark Newman and cited various criteria for baseball to earn its way back in: "To be on the Olympic program is an issue where you need universality as much as possible. You need to have a sport with a following, you need to have the best players and you need to be in strict compliance with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). And these are the qualifications that have to be met. When you have all that, you have to win hearts. You can win the mind, but you still must win hearts."[7] It was officially decided in August 2009 at the IOC Board meeting in Berlin that baseball would also not be included in the 2016 Summer Olympics.[8]

On April 1, 2011, the IBAF and the International Softball Federation announced they were preparing a joint proposal to revive play of both sports at the 2020 Summer Olympics.[9]

In August 2011, Olympic news source Around the Rings reported that the ISF and IBAF would not rush into an Olympic proposal, and that the IBAF was working on forming a temporary commission to analyze the prospect of a joint proposal. "In the past, baseball and softball were running alone, and the result was that baseball and softball stayed out," IBAF president Riccardo Fraccari said in reference to their decades-long push for Olympic inclusion.

On September 8, 2013, the International Olympic Committee voted to reinstate wrestling, defeating the combined baseball-softball bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.[10]

Under new IOC policies that shift the Games to an "event-based" programme rather than sport-based, the host organizing committee can now also propose the addition of sports to the programme alongside the permanent "core" events.[11][12] A second bid for baseball-softball to be included as an event in 2020 was shortlisted by the Tokyo Organizing Committee on June 22, 2015.[13] On August 3, 2016, during the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the IOC approved the Tokyo Organizing Committee's final shortlist of five sports, which included baseball, to be included in the programme during the 2020 Summer Olympics.[14][15][16]


Edition Year Official host Champions Score and venue Runners-up Third place Score and venue Fourth place No. of teams
1 1992  Spain
Estadi Municipal de Futbol de L'Hospitalet, Catalonia

Chinese Taipei

Estadi Municipal de Futbol de L'Hospitalet, Catalonia

United States
2 1996  United States
Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta


United States
Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta

3 2000  Australia
United States
Sydney Showground Stadium, Sydney


South Korea
Sydney Showground Stadium, Sydney

4 2004  Greece
Hellinikon Olympic Complex, Athens


Hellinikon Olympic Complex, Athens

5 2008  China
South Korea
Wukesong Arena, Beijing


United States
Wukesong Arena, Beijing

6 2020  Japan 6

Medal table

1 Cuba3205
2 United States1023
3 South Korea1012
4 Japan0123
5 Australia0101
 Chinese Taipei0101
Totals (6 nations)55515


The host nation was always guaranteed a place in the Olympic baseball tournament. The other seven places were generally determined by continental qualifying tournaments. For the 2008 Games, the Americas received two places, Europe received one place, and Asia received one place.

The final three places were given to the top three nations at an eight-team tournament held after the continental tournaments. Qualification for this tournament was determined by those continental tournaments. The third and fourth place American teams, second and third place European teams, second and third place Asian teams, first place African team, and first place Oceania team competed in that tournament.

This qualification tournament was new for 2008. It was created after heavy criticism of the previous qualification standard. In previous Olympics, only two teams from the Americas were able to qualify for the Olympics, despite the fact that the vast majority of the top baseball-playing nations in the world came from this region. Europe, whose baseball nations were substantially weaker, also entered two teams.


Olympic baseball was nearly identical to most professional baseball. Aluminum bats were disallowed after 1996 Atlanta. There was also a mercy rule that was invoked if a team was winning by 10 or more runs after 7 innings (or 6.5 innings if the home team was leading). For Sydney 2000, rosters were expanded to 24 players.

The tournament consisted of a round-robin preliminary round in which each team played all 7 of the other teams. Only the top four teams advanced to the medals round. In that round, semifinals were played between the 1st/4th place teams and the 2nd/3rd place teams. The semifinal losers then played a bronze medal game, with the winner earning the medal and the loser receiving 4th place. The semifinal winners played in the final, which awarded the winner a gold medal and the loser a silver medal.

During the 2008 games, a unique rule went into effect during games which went into extra innings.[17] If the game was still tied after the completion of the tenth inning base runners were automatically placed on first and second base with no outs.[17] IBAF created this rule to encourage scoring late in the game in order to determine a winner and to address criticisms from the IOC that a baseball game's length was unpredictable.[17]

Participating nations

The following 18 nations have taken part in the baseball competition. The numbers in the table refer to the final rank of each team in each tournament.

 Australia 762 3
 Canada   462
 China    81
 Chinese Taipei2  553
 Dominican Republic6    Q2
 Greece   7 1
 Israel     Q1
 Italy7678 4
 South Korea 83 1Q4
 Mexico     Q1
 Netherlands 55674
 Nicaragua 4   1
 Puerto Rico5    1
 South Africa  8  1
 Spain8    1
 United States431 3Q5
Total Nations888886

See also



  1. "The XIth Olympic Games Berlin, 1936 Official Report" (PDF). p. 498. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 January 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  2. "Record crowd watches Dodgers v Red Sox exhibition". Reuters. 31 March 2008. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  3. Gems, Gerald; Borish, Linda; Pfister, Gertrud (27 February 2017). Sports in American History, 2E: From Colonization to Globalization. ISBN 9781492526520.
  4. Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (2001). Official Report of the XXVII Olympiad (PDF). 2: Celebrating the Games. Canberra, Australia: Paragon Printers Australasia. pp. 176–9. ISBN 0-9579616-0-X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  5. "They'rrre out! Olympics drop baseball, softball". NBC Sports. Associated Press. 9 July 2005. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 15 August 2008. Rogge has basically conspired against the sports to get them removed
  6. de Vries, Lloyd (9 February 2006). "Strike 3 for Olympic Baseball". CBS News. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 15 August 2008.
  7. Newman, Mark (23 August 2008). "IOC: MLB players needed for 2016 bid".
  8. Wilson, Stephen (13 August 2009). "Golf, rugby backed by IOC board for 2016 Games". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  9. "Baseball, softball consider joint 2020 Olympic bid". Associated Press. 28 March 2012. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  10. "Wrestling gets reinstated for 2020 Olympics". ESPN. Associated Press. 8 September 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  11. "IOC allows summer or winter Olympics in two countries; baseball, softball get second life". Chicago Tribune. December 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  12. "Olympic Agenda 2020 Recommendations" (PDF). IOC. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  13. "Baseball, softball among 8 sports proposed for 2020 Games". 22 June 2015.
  14. "Olympics: Skateboarding & surfing among possible Tokyo 2020 sports". BBC Sport. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  15. "IOC approves five new sports for Olympic Games Tokyo 2020". 3 August 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  16. "You're in! Baseball/softball, 4 other sports make Tokyo cut". USA Today. 3 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  17. Associated Press (25 July 2008). "IBAF changes rules for extra-inning games in time for Beijing". ESPN. Archived from the original on 1 August 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2008.