Gulf Today

Japan and US win softball ties as Games of hope begin

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FUKUSHIMA: The Japanese women’s sotball team got the Tokyo 2020 Olympics off to a winning start for the hosts on Wednesday, kicking off a pandemic-postponed Games that the World Health Organizati­on says can be “a celebratio­n of hope” even as COVID-19 cases surge.

Olympics and Japanese officials have forged ahead with the sports spectacle despite opposition in the country to hosting more than 11,000 athletes, staff and media - dozens of whom have already tested positive

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s said the Games should go ahead to demonstrat­e to the world what can be achieved with the right plan and measures.

“May the rays of hope from this land illuminate a new dawn for a healthy, safer and fairer world,” he said, holding alot an Olympic Games torch as he addressed Internatio­nal Olympic Commitee members in the Japanese capital. “It is my sincere hope the Tokyo Games succeed.”

Spectators have been barred and restrictio­ns have been imposed in and around Tokyo, where COVID-19 infections are climbing, in an effort to minimise health risks among residents and visitors.

Japan, with about 34% of the population having had at least one dose of the vaccine, has been concerned the Olympics could become a super-spreader event.

In a recent poll in the Asahi newspaper, 68% of respondent­s expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronaviru­s infections, with 55% saying they were opposed to the Games going ahead.

As with the opening ceremony, the women’s sotball match between gold-medal contender Japan and Australia was held without spectators, amid buzzing cicadas and polite applause from a few hundred staff at a stadium in Fukushima, which was devastated by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Players standing along the benches under the scorching sun - 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) by midgame - shouted at the hiters all morning, giving the game a Litle League feel.

A trio of Japanese two-run homers cleared the fence, while the United States overcame Italy 2-0 and Canada beat Mexico.

The first of six women’s soccer matches on Wednesday were also underway.

Coronaviru­s infections continued to take a toll among atendees, however, with at least seven more positive cases bringing the total to more than 75.

Dutch skateboard­er Candy Jacobs confirmed she had tested positive for COVID-19 and is pulling out of the Games, along with a Chilean taekwondo competitor.

“I will need some time to let my broken heart heal and recover from this,” Jacobs wrote on her Instagram account.

Cases have been on the rise in Tokyo and Japanese media reported that government adviser Shigeru Omi said Tokyo daily COVID-19 infections may spike to a record of 3,000 in the first week of August, more than double their recent peak.

On Wednesday, Tokyo reported 1,832 new cases in the capital, the highest figure so far for the day of the week and up by 683 from a week earlier.

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