IOC President Thomas Bach and his organization decided it was time to bring baseball and softball back in the Olympic fold. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

The International Olympic Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to add five sports to the 2020 Games in Tokyo, bringing back softball and baseball while introducing surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing.

Calling it “the most comprehensive evolution of the Olympic program in modern history,” the IOC pointed to broadening the Games’ appeal to younger fans as the driving force behind the decision.

“We want to take sport to the youth,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect anymore that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them. Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”

The new sports were added in conjunction with Olympic Agenda 2020, a broad series of reforms aimed at austerity and allowing the host nation more flexibility in shaping the Games. Under Olympic Agenda 2020, the host nation’s organizing committees can add five additional events to be held in its Games only.

The sports in Tokyo will add 18 medal events and 474 additional athletes. The additions will not affect the inclusion of other sports in the Tokyo 2020 program, the IOC said.

Baseball and softball were last played in 2008 and will return after being excluded from only two Olympics. Baseball has a convoluted history as an Olympic sport. It was a frequent exhibition for decades before officially being included as a medal event in 1992, only to be kicked out of the program in 2012 owing to a lack of competitive nations. Softball needed a majority of 53 votes to remain an Olympic sport after 2008; it received 52.

“We are excited about the IOC’s announcement restoring baseball and softball to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Baseball and softball are global sports that belong in the Olympics.”

“This means so much to not only our USA Softball Women’s National Team program, but to millions of girls across the world,” USA Softball player Janie Takeda said. “Even if I’m not there, knowing that softball athletes will get to compete on the highest stage against the best competition in the world is amazing.”

The Winter Olympics has long embraced events once regarded as niche or “extreme,” introducing a variety of snowboarding events starting in 1998 at the Nagano Games. In an effort to attract younger fans, the Olympics added surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing. The IOC said the skateboarding and climbing will take place in temporary venues set in “urban settings” to further its outreach to young fans.

Surfing’s inclusion could raise issues in future Olympic cities, such as how to generate waves if the Games are held by a lake. The sport’s governing body, the International Surfing Association, hailed surfing’s addition as “a game-changing moment” and “an incredible platform” for the sport.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity to represent my country on the global stage in Japan at such a historic event,” said American John John Florence, who is widely regarded as the best surfer in the world.

Skateboarding will include both Street and Park events, the culmination of cooperation between the International Skateboarding Federation and the Tokyo 2020 Skateboarding Commission, a new branch of the IOC. Skateboarding made the Olympics despite a concerted effort by a group of skateboarders seeking to keep it out, citing the desire to maintain the sport’s “freedom.” The petition they started received fewer than 7,000 online signatures.

“I’ve always believed that if skateboarding was properly protected and supported, its appearance on the Olympic stage could change the world,” said Gary Ream, both the Tokyo 2020 Skateboarding Commission Chairman and ISF President.

Sport climbing may be the most unusual sport added. The event mimics rock climbing, but with a man-made wall.

“We are so happy that Sport Climbing will be participating in the Games of Tokyo,” International Federation of Sport Climbing President Marco Scolaris said. “The Olympics have been our dream for quite some time, and now the hard work has finally paid off.”