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A bat-and-ball game played by teams of nine, originating in the USA, popular too throughout Latin America, and in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, and Canada. It needs less space to play than its parent sport, baseball, and is played at a faster pace, with comparatively inexpensive equipment. Invented in Illinois as a form of indoor baseball, it was played in many versions until standardized rules were formed in 1933, establishing a basis that saw the sport develop into what has been claimed as the largest participation sport of the mid-20th-century USA. Its international profile expanded in the 1950s, and world championships for men and for women were inaugurated in 1965 and 1966 respectively, Australia winning the women's title and the USA the men's. The Japanese team won the second women's world championship in 1970. Softball, in the form of the fast-pitched women's game, featured in the Olympics for the first time at Atlanta in 1996, where the US team defeated China for the gold medal, going on to win the next two Olympics at Sydney and Athens, beating Japan and Australia respectively. At softball's final Olympics in Beijing in 2008, the USA had been ranked number one in the world from 1986. Softball was discontinued from the Olympics programme after the 2008 Games. In a secret vote in Singapore in 2005, the International Olympic Committee eliminated softball (and baseball) from the schedule of the Summer Games, reputedly due to the innate Americanism of the two sports. These were the first events to be discontinued since polo's last appearance in 1936. Reapplication is allowed, but softball cannot reappear at the Olympics until 2016 at the earliest.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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