June 12, 2015 / 8:49 AM / 2 years ago

Tug of war, bridge among 26 sports bidding for Tokyo spot

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Yoshiro Mori, Japan's former Prime Minister and president of Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of Olympic and Paralympic games, answers to the media during the 127th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Monaco December 8, 2014.Eric Gaillard

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tug of war, sumo wrestling, surfing and frisbee throwing are among 26 sports leading the charge for an Olympic place after Games officials opened the door for new attractions at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The 26, which also include korfball, billiards, orienteering, bridge and chess, have applied for inclusion in the Games, Tokyo organizers said on Friday.

Baseball and softball, united under the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), were also on the list and will be strong favorites to return to the Olympics for the first time since Asia last hosted the Games in Beijing in 2008.

As part of reforms initiated by International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach last year, Games hosts have the chance to bring in one or more sports popular in their country to boost ratings and attract greater sponsorship.

As well as baseball and softball, the martial art of karate and sumo wrestling would perhaps best fulfill the criteria of local popularity, although the latter has limited international appeal.

Yoshiro Mori, head of the organizing committee, told the news conference that while the IOC had not given them any concrete guidelines on which sports should be included, Bach had put heavy emphasis on "sports that appeal to youth".

Mori acknowledged that this was important but also noted that there were sports on the list which were not well-known or especially popular in Japan, which means new venues might have to be constructed to host them.

"There are sports on this list that are not done in Japan, and we can't spend a lot of money on venues for these," he said.

Organizing committee chief executive Toshiro Muto echoed Mori in being leery of any extra venue construction and said a panel would rank the sports and produce a shortlist on June 22.

International federations will make presentations in Tokyo in early August and the organizing committee will then submit their final proposal to the IOC.

Tug of war, which was contested at every summer Olympics from 1900 to 1920, is perhaps unlikely to feature on the shortlist but if it did make a remarkable return, Britain would defend the title it won at the Antwerp Olympics.

Writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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