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China Committed to Develop Softball
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Although softball was dropped from the 2012 London Olympic Games, Chinese senior sports officials confirmed that China would continue to promote the sport in the country with the opportunity of hosting the 11th Women's Softball Championships this August in Beijing.

Xiao Tian, vice director of China State General Administration of Sport, the country's governing body of sports, said China won't stop the development of softball and baseball in the country.

"We won't cancel our national team but will strengthen them," Xiao said.

Xiao also said softball and baseball would be included in China's 11th National Games in 2009 in Shandong Province.

At the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) 117th session last year, softball was dropped from the Olympic list.

The IOC also turned down an appeal at its 118th session in Turin this February.

However, officials from the International Softball Federation (ISF) still say they want to develop the sport around the globe.

"Hundreds of thousands of female softballers had their Olympic dreams taken away from them. We respect the IOC's decision but we disagree with it," said Don Porter, president of ISF.

"We will continue to make efforts to further develop our sport. We are a universal sport and will grow stronger in the future."

Development in China

In order to further develop the sport in China, a five-year development plan was signed between the ISF and the Chinese Softball Association two years ago.

The ISF has helped China to develop softball in schools.

"We provide a lot of softball equipment and technical assistance to China and we are also sending coaches," said Porter. "It is very important to get young people interested in it."

According to He Huixian, president of the Chinese Softball Association, up to now, softball has been played among students from 52 primary and middle schools in China.

Setting up the softball national team in 1985, China has become one of the strongest softball countries in the world, with accolades such as a silver medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

The team also won the world championships silver medal for two times in 1986 and 1994.

As the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing will hold the 2006 ISF Softball Championships from August 27 to September 5 at Fengtai Softball Field, the competition venue for the sport at the 2008 Beijing Games.

It will be the first test event to be held at the 2008 Olympic venue.

According to Jiang Xiuyun, secretary general of the event's organizing committee, 16 national teams from five continents will take part in the championships and the top four finishers together with the host team will directly gain tickets for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

(China Daily April 11, 2006)

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