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Baseball and softball are back on the Olympic programme after being absent since the Olympic Games Beijing 2008. Both are hugely popular in Japan, and its national teams are among the best in the world.

The International Baseball Federation was established in 1938, while the International Softball Federation was incorporated in 1952, with the International Olympic Committee recognising baseball in 1954 and softball in 1967.

The two sports were merged into one governing body – the World Baseball Softball Confederation – in 2013.

Italian Riccardo Fraccari was elected first-ever President of the WBSC in 2014. He led the successful bid for the sports’ inclusion at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and he has served at seven Olympic Games as a baseball official.

Baseball

Men compete in baseball with six squads comprising 24 players each.

The sport first featured at the Olympic Games in St Louis in 1904, but it was not awarded official status until Barcelona 1992.

Cuba won the first Olympic title after defeating Chinese Taipei in the gold-medal match and it has won three of the five titles, with the United States and the Republic of Korea claiming the other two.

Tokyo 2020 host Japan has been on the podium three times when it won bronze in 1992 and 2004, as well as silver in 1996.

Softball

Women compete in softball with 90 athletes in total representing six teams.

Softball was introduced to the Olympic programme as a women-only sport at Atlanta 1996.

The United States of America, Japan and Australia dominated the medals at the four Games up to Beijing 2008.

The USA won three golds and one silver, Japan a medal of each colour and Australia one silver and three bronze medals.

Only China managed to break up this domination, with silver at the first Games in 1996.

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