After one-year delay, games at last under way in Japan

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 22 Jul 2021

The sports program at the Tokyo Olympics finally got under way yesterday, without spectators and a year late because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The very first event saw host Japan thrash Australia 8-1 in softball in disaster-hit Fukushima, a venue chosen to underline Tokyo's original slogan as the "Recovery and Reconstruction Games" after the region was ravaged by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Women's football also started, with Brazil beating China 5-0, with Marta scoring twice, becoming the first player to score a goal in five Olympics.

In Fukushima, the game took place in an empty stadium as spectators are barred for most of the events at the Olympics following a surge in coronavirus cases in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.

The sound of the ball hitting the bat reverberated around the Azuma Stadium, with a backdrop of wooded hills.

The Olympics are being staged in biosecure "bubble" conditions, with athletes tested daily and under orders to stay socially distanced and wear masks when not competing or training.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told IOC members that the Games could never be "zero risk" but that organizers have done their best.

"The mark of success in the coming fortnight is not zero cases... The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible," he added.

Four competitors, including British shooter Amber Hill, the No 1 in the world in women's skeet, became the first to be ruled out of the Games after testing positive for coronavirus.

Great Britain and the USA both took the knee before their openers in women's football, after a ban on protests was eased to allow political gestures pre-match.

Britain beat Chile 2-0 but four-time champions USA, led by Megan Rapinoe, suffered the first shock of the Games as they went down 3-0 to Sweden.

Stina Blackstenius scored twice and Lina Hurtig added a third goal to give 2016 silver medallists Sweden a dream start and inflict the Americans' first defeat in 45 matches.

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July 2021

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