First Pitch in Beijing Six Months Away
Dutch outfielder/third base player Marloes Fellinger said, “After ten years of being denied, this team is not content to just be there. We are determined to have a good showing for the European region. As this marks the six month mark ‘til the games, we are working very hard and it is a great group of players to be around. We want to compete in every game. We are so honored to represent our country and proud to take the Dutch National Team to the Olympics. What a great life experience for all of us.”
Cat Osterman, a pitcher on the defending Olympic gold medalist U.S. team said, "This year is one of the most important for softball. This is a good chance leading up to our biggest stage to showcase everything our sport has to offer. The media coverage leading up to and at the Olympics is huge because it can show so many people what our sport truly is about, and the different stories behind it. As athletes we see this opportunity as a chance to not only prepare ourselves, but share our lives with other people. We want to let them into the world of softball and learn about the many aspects that makes this game our passion."
Off the field, the ISF President took part in a Q&A on the occasion of the first pitch being six months away.
Question) What are some of your hopes and expectations for this Olympiad?
Don Porter) “I hope we are going to be well prepared at that time for what we are going to be doing in China in August and prior to the start of the Games. Consequently, we are focusing to also make sure that we have everything ready from our operational side with the technical people and with the venue operating properly all during the Games. Of course all of this will be done well in advance of that deadline to make sure that everything is totally ready to start with the first game on August 12th.
“Hopefully everything will be in place also to build on the promotional aspect in Beijing and in China proper. We want to build up the attendance and look forward to working closely with the Chinese Softball Association doing promotions there from now to August to generate interest in softball.
…2/Six months to ’08 Olympic Softball
“We want to be sure that we are touching all bases and getting ready to be operational. The other important part is to be sure that we have everything in place to attract media attention and to work with the media to generate stories. This is another vital phase apart from hosting numerous International Olympic Committee (IOC) Members at our games. They will all be there for the IOC Session and we will make preparations to have as many as possible if not all of them out at the competition.
“There are a number of IOC members that have not attended softball and we want to be sure to have them out to the Fengtai Softball Field and get them more familiar with our sport.”
Q) How do you feel about having two countries (Venezuela and the Netherlands) that were recipients of the Development Program in early stages competing at these Games?
DP) “Not only were these two countries that are participating in the Olympics given a lot of support but many others have received aid. We try to do this with all our members as some need more support than others. But trying to make sure that they get what they need to be competitive is very important. In my opinion we want to be sure that all eight teams are going to be competitive. Not only with them, but through many of our other federations, this has shown that there have been improvements in the number of participants and the number of countries playing the sport. This also applies for what regards the playing level by us developing coaches and umpires. And I think that this lends to what is happening with our federations in developing their teams and athletes. They have the support that is needed to get out and organize and promote the sport to compete at certain events.
“We are limited up to a certain point with what we can do, but we try to combine as much as we have in the way of the resources that the ISF has. This has to do with equipment. I have seen recently that the numbers are up from what we have done in the past two or three years and even prior to that. The number of countries that we have provided softball equipment to plus the technical side of sending coaches and umpire instructors has risen and this goes on constantly all the time.
“It is important that this goes on all the time and we remain consistent with our aid. Hopefully at some point we can try to find more support from the standpoint of sponsors. That has not been easy and we are not the only ones from the Olympic sports looking for help from sponsors. But we need to keep working so that we can find some help for offering the services that we are providing to our members.”
Q) What are some of your concerns?
DP) “There are concerns only for things that we can’t control. One of these is the competitive side of our game. That is up to the athletes and coaches and we are hopeful that they are going to be playing at the highest level and we don’t have any runaway games with
…3/Six months to ’08 Olympic Softball
one team beating the other by a considerable margin. We can’t control that but we’ll be focusing on the things we can control. Certainly we will be talking to our National Federations that have teams entered about their plans for the competition.
“In the meantime we will do what we have to do to prepare the venue, both the technical and the operational sides in readiness for the teams to be competing.
“The staff at the ISF Secretariat has various functions and responsibilities and all this will go together as we move towards the next two or three months as we go to Beijing. A number of us from time to time will make sure all is going as it should. It is a work in progress.”
Q) How are things going with the Back Softball campaign?
DP) “The campaign is moving well. We have a lot of events and activities that a number of us will be present at between now and August and an even more pronounced presence in Beijing.
“We’re going to take advantage of every opportunity that we come across to make it known that softball is out there working hard to get the support of the IOC Members when they gather in October of 2009. But more important the sport is growing and we are broadening the awareness about our activities and we seek to keep the members informed.
“The Back Softball campaign with the number of people on the Strategic Task Force has received various ideas and insight. This has been helpful to us as this group has a number of IOC Members, National Olympic Committee representatives, corporate advisors, athletes, and media.
“There is a good balance of people and we are planning our next meeting. We have had two meetings as of late August of last year.
“The Task Force is also fortunate to have former IOC President and Honorary IOC President for Life Juan Antonio Samaranch as the Honorary Chairman. He has been very supportive and extremely helpful providing insight and precious input.
“In general the Strategic Task Force serves a good purpose. The idea of the Back Softball initiative is something that I believe is starting to catch on. We just have to keep it going strong from now to Beijing, throughout the Games, and continuing through October of next year.”
MEDIA: For more information, please contact ISF Director of Communications Bruce Wawrzyniak at email@example.com, (1.813) 864 0100, ext. 229, or (1.813) 453 8762 (cell) or Laura Walden, Back Softball Media Relations Director, at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org , (1.813) 864 0100, ext. 224, or (1.813) 679 2126 (cell).