Host City: Beijing, China
Date Started: August 12, 2008
Date Finished: August 21, 2008
Participants: 120 (0 men and 120 women) from 8 countries
Youngest Participant: Britt Vonk (17 years, 124 days)
Oldest Participant: Zuleyma Cirimele (41 years, 79 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 45 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): 3 countries with 1 medal
In July 2005, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to remove softball, alongside baseball, from the Olympic Program, which, after several appeals, was finally confirmed at an IOC Executive Board meeting in August 2009. Thus, this was to be the last Olympic softball tournament, although baseball and softball have re-applied several times, and there is discussion that they may be admitted to the Olympic Program in 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics, where the sports are very popular.
The 2008 venue was the Fengtai Tiyu Zhongxin Leiquichang, or the Fengtai Sports Center Softball Field. This was an older venue that had been used for the 1990 Asian Games and the 1992 World Cup, although it was renovated in 2006 for the 2008 Olympics.
The format was the same as in 1996-2004, with a round-robin tournament followed by a Page System play-off. In the Page System, there were two semi-finals. One semi-final matched the third- and fourth-placed teams, with the winner advancing to the final, and the loser being placed fourth. The other semi-final matched the first- and second-placed teams, with the winner advancing to the grand final, and the loser playing the winner of the first semi-final in the final. The winner of the final then advanced to the grand final, playing the winner of the second semi-final.
There were again eight teams, as in 1996-2004, who qualified as follows – host nation China; the top four teams from the 2006 World Championships (United States, Japan, Australia, Canada); Chinese Taipei from an Asian/Oceanian Qualifying Tournament; the Netherlands from a European/African Qualifying Tournament; and Venezuela from the Pan American Qualifying Tournament.
If the IOC was worried that US-dominance made the sport unfit for the Olympic Program, they could have waited until the results of the 2008 Olympics, as the United States lost the gold medal for the only time in Olympic history, after winning in 1996, 2000, and 2004. Although the US was undefeated in the round-robin and won their semi-final over Japan, Japan advanced into the grand final with a victory over Australia, and then defeated the American team, 3-1, to win the gold medal.