Taiwan pulls out of baseball qualifying tournament over COVID-19 fears

Security guards guard near the Olympic Rings monument during a rally by anti-Olympic protesters in front of the headquarters of the Japanese Olympic Committee in Tokyo, Japan, May 18, 2021. REUTERS / Issei Kato / File Photo

Taiwan pulled out of the final baseball qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics after failing to secure a training facility and over player health concerns in Mexico.

Taiwan was originally fourth in the world and was originally intended to host the tournament before a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country forced the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) to relocate it to Puebla, Mexico.

Mexico is still reporting thousands of new COVID-19 cases every day, and Health Department data released on Wednesday said 228,146 people have died since the pandemic began. Continue reading

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Taiwan was also behind the Yunlin County local government’s refusal to prepare cadres on training fields under their jurisdiction, the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association said in a statement.

“We apologize to all team members who originally expressed their willingness to participate, and thank them for their commitment,” said the statement published late on Wednesday.

Participating in the Olympic Games as Chinese Taipei, Taiwan has only won 22 medals in previous Summer Games, including a silver baseball medal in Barcelona in 1992.

Baseball returns to the Games for the first time since Beijing 2008, when Taiwan finished fifth in the group stage and narrowly missed the medal rounds.

Six nations are fighting for gold in Tokyo, hosts Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea have already qualified.

The Americas qualifier, which offers a ticket to Tokyo, will take place in the United States, with the final place being won in Puebla June 22-26.

China pulled out of the last Olympic qualifying tournament last month, reducing a five-team tournament to four with Taiwan’s withdrawal.

Australia and the Netherlands are the two teams that have been confirmed for the tournament, with the addition of the second and third placed teams from the American qualifying round.

“Team Australia has plans to participate at this time,” Baseball Australia chief executive Glenn Williams told Reuters on Thursday via email.

“The complexity of relocating so shortly before the event presents us with challenges, but we are working on mastering these challenges.”

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