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Olympics finally starts two days before opening ceremony with Japan taking on Australia in softball

After being postponed one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo finally began – two days ahead of its opening ceremony Friday. 

On Wednesday, the first pitch was thrown in a softball game between Australia and Japan, as the sport returned to the Olympic stage after a 13-year absence. 

But the game took place in front of empty stands due to pandemic restrictions, as Japan faces a surge in Covid cases.

Softball originally became an Olympic sport in 1996, and appeared in every Summer Games up until 2008 in Beijing, after which it was dropped. 

After being postponed one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 finally began – two days ahead of its opening ceremony Friday

On Wednesday, the first pitch was thrown in a softball game between Australia and Japan, as the sport returned to the Olympic stage after a 13-year absence

On Wednesday, the first pitch was thrown in a softball game between Australia and Japan, as the sport returned to the Olympic stage after a 13-year absence

Softball originally became an Olympic sport in 1996, and appeared in every Summer Games up until 2008 in Beijing, after which it was dropped

Softball originally became an Olympic sport in 1996, and appeared in every Summer Games up until 2008 in Beijing, after which it was dropped

The tournament kicked off at 8 p.m. EST at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo, but appeared on U.S. television Tuesday due to the 13-hour time difference.

The tournament kicked off at 8 p.m. EST at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo, but appeared on U.S. television Tuesday due to the 13-hour time difference.

Pictured, Leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team, Michelle Cox high-fiving a teammate at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo

Pictured, Leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team, Michelle Cox high-fiving a teammate at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo

The tournament kicked off at 8 p.m. EST at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo, but appeared on U.S. television Tuesday due to the 13-hour time difference. 

It was the first tournament in Summer Games ahead of the opening ceremony scheduled for Friday.   

Leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team, Michelle Cox worked a full count against Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno, then beat out an infield single back to the pitcher. 

Leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team, Michelle Cox (right) worked a full count against Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno (left) then beat out an infield single back to the pitcher.

Leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team, Michelle Cox (right) worked a full count against Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno (left) then beat out an infield single back to the pitcher.

On Wednesday, the first pitch was thrown in a softball game between Australia and Japan, as the sport returned to the Olympic stage after a 13-year absence.

On Wednesday, the first pitch was thrown in a softball game between Australia and Japan, as the sport returned to the Olympic stage after a 13-year absence.

On Wednesday, the Australian women's softball team faced off against Japan at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo for the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

On Wednesday, the Australian women’s softball team faced off against Japan at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo for the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 

After giving up a single to Cox, Ueno walked a batter and hit the next two with pitches. 

That allowed Cox to score the game’s — and the Games’ — first run.    

A game between the U.S. and Italy is scheduled to follow at 11 p.m. with one between Mexico and Canada beginning at 2 a.m.  

It is not uncommon for Olympic games to commence before the opening ceremony, especially in regards to Summer games.   

The early start is often a consequence of a tight schedule and extended tournaments that sometimes require longer than the Games’ accustomed 17-day window. 

Softball and baseball, both of which are popular in Japan, were approved for competition in Tokyo in 2016. 

In addition, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing — will also be a part of the games in Tokyo.  

On Wednesday, the Australian women's softball team faced off against Japan at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo for the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

On Wednesday, the Australian women’s softball team faced off against Japan at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo for the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

On Wednesday, the Japanese women's softball team faced off against Australia at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo for the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

On Wednesday, the Japanese women’s softball team faced off against Australia at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo for the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 

On Wednesday, the Japanese women's softball team faced off against Australia at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo for the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

On Wednesday, the Japanese women’s softball team faced off against Australia at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Tokyo for the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

On Sunday, a fully-vaccinated alternate on the US women’s gymnastics team tested positive for COVID-19 while training for the Olympics in Japan, amid increasing concern over the safety of the Games.

Eighteen-year-old Kara Eaker, from Kansas City, traveled to Tokyo with three other alternates and the six main athletes who are expected to compete in the Games, including defending champion Simone Biles.   

The news of her positive test was initially reported by Japanese officials on Monday morning, however they refused to name the athlete. 

She has since been identified by her coach, Al Fong, while USA Gymnastics confirmed that one of its alternate athletes had been infected and was quarantining in a local hotel. 

According to WHO-TV reporter Justin Surrency, who spoke with Kara’s coach, the teenager will go through 8-14 days of isolation, which began on Sunday.    

The gymnast is the latest in a growing line of Olympic athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19, with the increase in cases adding fresh fuel to the backlash over organizers’ decision to push ahead with the Games, despite Japan going through a fifth wave of infections. 

On Sunday, it was announced that six British Olympic athletes and two team staff are also self-isolating in Tokyo after being identified as close contacts of a passenger who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus on their plane to Japan. 



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