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IOC president: Baseball unlikely to return without top stars

8/23/2008 - MLB

BEIJING -- IOC president Jacques Rogge hinted Saturday that baseball
will not return as an Olympic sport until major league players are allowed to
take part.

"We have [Roger] Federer, [Rafael] Nadal in tennis, LeBron
James in basketball," Rogge told MLB.com. "We have the best
cyclists. Ronaldinho is here in football.

"We want these guys at the Games.

"We're not saying it should be an entire Major League team,
but we want the top athletes here at the Olympics."

Rogge made a brief appearance at Wukesong Field to watch
the U.S. beat Japan 8-4 in the bronze medal game and indicated
the International Olympic Committee was prepared to play
hardball with Major League Basebal over the problematic issue of major leaguers
in the Olympics.

MLB has flatly rejected any proposal linked to the league
shutting down for the Games while the IOC has made it clear it
wants the world's best on the Olympic diamond if the sport is
to have any chance of returning to the line-up.

Baseball and softball were both chopped from the Olympic
program in 2005 and will not be played at the 2012 London
Summer Games.

But both will be considered for reinstatement, along with
five other Olympic hopefuls [golf, squash, rugby, karate and
rollersports] for a return to the Olympic roster in 2016.

The IBAF (International Baseball Federation), along with MLB
,
maintains it is eager to remain part of the Olympics and say they are working hard to end the stalemate.

IBAF President Harvey Schiller said earlier in the week he
believed major league players would appear in the Olympics in
2016 if the sport is reinstated.

Several proposals have been floated, including a plan to
move and extend the MLB all-star break and replace it with a
compact Olympic tournament.

Another plan would have minor leaguers play in the
preliminary round and bring in major leaguers once teams
advance to the medal round.

But Team USA manager Davey Johnson, who has won World
Series titles as a player and a coach, believes Major League
players will never be seen in the Olympics.

"That is going to be hard because baseball in the United
States is a huge business," he said.

"Unless they find a way to have a couple week break, I
don't see them letting their best players leave because you
might take two or three players from one club and they might
lose a pennant because of it.

"I would love to see big league players in the Olympics but
I don't see it happening in the future."