Olympics for Beginners
Although many associate baseball with the United States, it is
Cuba who have won all but one of the gold medals since it first appeared at the Olympics in 1992. Baseball, which only has a men's tournament at the Games, is played between two teams who take turns batting and fielding and the object is to score the most runs in nine innings. Each innings of a team ends when three of their batters have been ruled out and a game is extended into extra innings if the scores remain level.
At the Olympics, eight teams compete, all playing each other once in a round-robin system. The top four nations will then advance to the semi-finals where the first-placed team play the fourth-placed team and second play third. The winners contest the gold and silver medals while the losers play for the bronze. China's spot at the Olympic baseball tournament is assured due to their position as hosts while the other places are awarded through a series of continental qualifiers.
Baseball has had full Olympic status since only 1992. At its debut in Barcelona players were required to be amateurs but this was changed in 2000 to allow professional players to participate. The United States beat three-time champions Cuba into second place in Sydney eight years ago, while Japan have finished on the podium on three occasions. The sport is dominated by teams from North America and the Far East with no European nations ever having recorded a podium finish. At an IOC meeting in 2005 baseball was voted out of the 2012 games but is likely to return for