Olympics finally begin two days before the opening ceremony, with Japan taking on Australia in softball

After being postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics finally started – two days before the opening ceremony on Friday.

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

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

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

After being postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics finally started – two days before the opening ceremony on Friday

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

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

Softball originally became an Olympic sport in 1996 and appeared in every summer games 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 aired on US television on 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 aired on US television on Tuesday due to the 13-hour time difference.

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

Pictured, Leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team, Michelle Cox giving a teammate a high-five 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 aired on US television on 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 out a full count against Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno, then defeated an infield single back to the pitcher.

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

Leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team, Michelle Cox (right) worked out a full count against Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno (left), then defeated 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 podium 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 podium after a 13-year absence.

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

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

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

That enabled Cox to score the first run of the game – and of the Games.

A match between the USA and Italy is scheduled for 11pm and a match between Mexico and Canada to start at 2am

It is not uncommon for the Olympics to start before the opening ceremony, especially with regard to the summer games.

The early start is often the result of a tight schedule and extensive tournaments that sometimes last longer than the usual 17 days of the Games.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 growing concerns about the safety of the Games.

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

News of her positive test was initially reported Monday morning by Japanese officials, but they declined to name the athlete.

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

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

The gymnast is the latest in a growing line of Olympic athletes to have tested positive for COVID-19, with an increase in cases adding new fuel to opposition to the organizers’ decision to go ahead with the Games despite Japan is experiencing a fifth wave of infections.

It was announced on Sunday that six British Olympic athletes and two team members are also in self-isolation in Tokyo after being identified as close contacts of a passenger who then tested positive for coronavirus on their plane to Japan.

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