IOC president: Baseball unlikely to return without top stars

Updated: August 23, 2008, 6:46 AM ET
Reuters

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."