In August, the International Olympic Committee recommended squash and golf be added to the 2016 Olympic program, effectively killing baseball’s chances at ever returning, and killing the expansion of baseball worldwide along with it. Jacques Rogge, the current IOC president, is a very “old school” European and is a huge rugby fan. Not to mention his wife used to head up the Belgian golf team, and it was almost a foregone conclusion as to which two sports would be added. In addition, the IOC is dominated by Europeans, many of whom do not understand baseball, and baseball is only big in the Netherlands and Italy, although it is growing in Germany and the United Kingdom. Five of the current top 10 rugby teams in the world are in Europe, although Wales and Scotland won’t be allowed to compete independently. And it is almost a given that at least one European would medal in golf, if not multiple Europeans.
If baseball can’t get on the 2016 program – where two of the favorites for host city are Chicago and Tokyo, and one other (Madrid) has hosted an Olympic baseball tournament before – it doesn’t seem likely it will happen, at least until Rogge is done as head of the IOC.
If baseball won’t be back to the Olympics, baseball won’t be expanding any more than it has already, and in fact it will probably contract. Many countries get funding from their national governments or governmental sporting bodies based on whether they are Olympic sports or not. A country like South Africa has no incentive to invest heavily in baseball when they are the only country from Africa that is going to play in the WBC, and don’t have to qualify for the Olympics anymore. Sure they’ll still qualify for the WBC, but they won’t get any truly talented kids to play the sport.
Now that baseball isn’t in the Olympics, China won’t be mandating that its people play the sport. Kids won’t want to play the sport either when they see Yao Ming making millions of dollars. Kobe Bryant is far more popular in China than Albert Pujols ever will be.
Lastly, baseball is an expensive sport. In order to play it properly you need wooden bats (or aluminum), balls, gloves and a field. The cost of building a field for the Olympics is tremendous, and if it is never used again (such as Greece in 2004) the cost only rises. Without the Olympic carrot dangling, international baseball could be on its way out.