Is Softball An Olympic Sport In 2016? The Games Have Long Debated Over Its Inclusion

The Rio Olympics kicks off Friday when thousands of athletes from around the world join together to compete in the sports they love. But due to some Olympic bureaucracy, one sport that's deeply beloved by women all over the world won't be included in the Games this year. Is softball an Olympic sport in 2016? Softball won't be played in Rio, but there's hope it will be back for the 2020 Olympics.

Unfortunately for this generation of elite softball players, the Olympics doesn't include softball this year. The last time the sport was in the Olympic program was 2008, when the United States took home its first silver medal for softball after three straight gold medal Games. The International Olympic Committee failed to renew the sports during a secret balloting process in 2005, which eliminated the events from the 2012 Olympics in London. After the decision was announced, former IOC chair Jacques Rogge advised the sport to increase its global popularity, despite the fact that softball is played competitively in over 125 countries.

However, there's potentially good news for the 2020 Olympics, and it should be coming in just a few days. Tokyo is hosting the next Games in four years, and Japan is wild about baseball and softball (and really good at it, too). The Japanese organizing committee has been lobbying to put the popular sports back into the competition, because it fits perfectly with the planned themes of youth involvement, and the IOC is expected to make a final decision by Aug. 3, just a few days before the opening ceremonies in Rio.

The inclusion of softball in the Olympics would be a great highlight on female athletes and how sports can drive social progress. Softball is one of the only sports that are accessible to women in conservative and underdeveloped countries, because women can comply with modesty requirements and it's inexpensive to play. In Iran, women and girls are now encouraged to play softball; just 30 years ago, participation in sports was de facto forbidden. By bringing it back to the Olympics, it will encourage a new generation of girls to become invested in a sport that makes itself accessible to them, spreading a message of empowerment and equality to girls around the world.

Although today's great softball players won't get to compete in their own Olympics, there's a strong chance that the next Games will encourage and produce a new generation of heroes in the sport. Girls everywhere look up to these inspiring female athletes, which should be enough reason to include the sport again.