First event of Tokyo Olympics gets under way

    Japan’s Minority Naito, left, reacts after Australian Stacey McManus leaves during the softball match between Japan and Australia at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Fukushima, Japan. Photo: AP

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    Japan’s Minority Naito, left, reacts after Australian Stacey McManus leaves during the softball match between Japan and Australia at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Fukushima, Japan. Photo: AP

    The adjourned 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the pandemic began on Wednesday with Japan’s women’s softball stop Yukiko Ueno kicking off the Games in what the World Health Organization chief said was a “celebration of hope”.

    The growing number of Covid-19 cases in Tokyo’s host city has cast a shadow over the world’s largest sporting event, which takes place largely without spectators. Japan decided this month that participants would compete in empty spaces to minimize health risks.

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    WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Games must move forward to show the world what can be achieved with the right plan and measures.

    “May the rays of hope from this earth illuminate a new dawn for a healthier, safer and fairer world,” he said, holding up an Olympic flashlight. “I sincerely hope that the Tokyo Games will succeed.”

    However, Tedros warned that the world was in the early stages of another wave of infections and criticized vaccine disparities between countries.

    The Olympics and Japanese officials have gone ahead with the sporting spectacle despite opposition in the country to host more than 11,000 athletes and the staff and media that come with them amid growing Covid-19 infections.

    Underlining the limited pandemic due to the pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet only with less than 20 Olympic leaders on the sidelines of the Olympics, out of 120 originally scheduled.

    In a recent poll in the Asahi newspaper, 68% of those polled expressed doubts about the ability of Olympic organizers to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they were opposed to the upcoming Games.

    Japanese domestic media reported that government adviser Shigeru Omi said Tokyo’s daily Covid-19 infections could rise to a record 3,000 in the first week of August.

    This would put an extremely high risk of pressure on the already strained medical system.

    Two more softball games, as well as the first six women’s soccer matches are scheduled for later Wednesday. The opening ceremony is on Friday.

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