In the US it was taken as an anti-American swipe, a ridiculing gesture by a European dominated sporting world that either could not or would not understand. It was inconceivable, they said, but it happened nonetheless. Over the summer the members of the International Olympic Committee came together and decided baseball and softball did not deserve a place on the Olympic programme. The grieving sports went through the usual phases of denial, shock, anger, guilt, depression. But acceptance hasn't come yet. On the contrary, a battle plan is being hatched, to be put into action this week, with the hope being they can slip the games back on to the catalogue before most of the world even realised they had been wiped off. At a vote in Singapore in July all 28 existing Olympic sports were put to a simple majority vote to decide if they were worthy of a place at the London games in 2012. Twenty-six sports pulled through, including modern pentathlon, which was thought to have been on very thin ice. But baseball lost out 54-50, while softball fell by the narrowest of margins: 52-52 - becoming the first two sports to be eliminated from the Olympic programme since polo in 1936. Five sports - squash, karate, rugby sevens, golf and roller sports - all failed to get a two-thirds majority needed for acceptance as new sports. The next scheduled vote is in 2009 for the 2016 games, and the IOC has suggested that a simple majority vote will be used across the board to give non-Olympic sports an equal opportunity. But this week, as the IOC gathers in Turin for the winter games, baseball and softball are hoping for a second chance. They need one-third of the gathered members to submit a motion for a new vote on their status. Half the members would need to agree and then a majority vote would reinstate them. Baseball may be the stuff folk tales are built on in the US, and produce legends in countries like Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, but the sport has long been sniffed at in Olympic circles. For one, the games have never appeared to register on Major League Baseball's list of priorities. MLB, unlike the basketball and ice hockey associations, refuses to interrupt its regular season to let its best players attend the Olympics, and the second-rate US team that entered the preliminaries last time around didn't even qualify for Athens. The sport also takes flak for failing to combat rampant steroid use among some of its top players, and for the fact it is not widely played or promoted in many parts of the world. After it was kicked out the IOC's president Jacques Rogge said the message was clear: The IOC wants the best athletes, universality and clean sport. While softball does send its best players to the games and does not have a big problem with performance-enhancing substances, it suffers from the perception that it is baseball for women. It is, however, dominated by the US and if it wants to impress the committee this time they will have to show they are working hard to promote the game in other regions. What will work strongly in its favour is the fact that it is the only Olympic sport open to women only. While the IOC says it is striving to increase female participation in the games, the removal of softball could reduce the number of women competing by up to 200, putting a big dent in the gender equity efforts. Both associations have been lobbying intensely, arguing they have identified issues of concern and are mending their ways. With the original votes so close there is a feeling of quiet optimism in both camps. China will be supporting them both. Softball, while not widely played in China, is always seen as an Olympic medal hope - the Chinese took silver in Atlanta and came fourth in Athens. Also important is the fact that it is considered an accessible team sport that could potentially have wide appeal at grassroots level and play a key role in the 'sport for all' programme, an Olympic-related initiative aimed at getting the masses off the sofas and on to the playing fields. As for baseball, China has identified it as a priority sport they are keen to nurture. It was banned under Mao Zedong as an evil foreign influence but that idea has lost currency in recent years and by the time Beijing was awarded the Olympics officials felt it was time for a full rehabilitation. Three years ago the MLB were invited to develop the game in China, signing a deal that involves funding and player development. Jim Lefebvre - the former manager of the Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers - was sent in to cultivate Team China, along with pitching coach Bruce Hurst, formerly of the Boston Red Sox. They pick out the brightest hopes from the nascent six-team national league and haul them off to Arizona for regular intensive training camps where they sharpen their skills. There are 33 Chinese baseball pioneers there now, being put through their paces in preparation for the inaugural World Baseball Classic from March 3-20. The 16-team event, to be held in Japan, the US and Puerto Rico, is the game's swift riposte to the Olympic snub. China, grouped with Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, are still considered minnows but since Lefebvre's arrival they have recently surprised Taiwan and Korea. The foundations are being slotted into place and officials are praying that, a la Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki in Japan, some of their homegrown players can break through. Such a 'Yao Ming effect', helped along by Olympic support for the game, could see a proliferation of diamonds popping up out of China's rough.