Tokyo Olympics unofficially begins amid pandemic
By R. Vikneswaran
KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 – After so much of uncertainties and challenges amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games began unofficially today, two days before the opening ceremony on Friday.
The showdown began with the women’s softball at the Fukushima Azuma Stadium, in the Fukushima prefecture that was hit hard by a nuclear disaster in the aftermath of an earthquake followed by a massive tsunami in 2011.
Hosts and reigning champions Japan won the opening match comfortably, beating Australia 8-1, followed by the United States’ (USA) 2-0 victory against Italy, while Canada beat Mexico 4-0.
The last time softball was contested in the Olympics, at the 2008 Beijing edition, Japan emerged victorious while the US and Australia took home silver and bronze respectively.
As the women’s football kicked off in the evening, Ellen White scored a brace (17th & 72nd minutes) to help Great Britain edge Chile 2-0 in the Group E tier at the Sapporo Dome, while reigning silver medalists Sweden defeated the USA 3-0 at the Tokyo Stadium in a Group G match.
Malaysia’s challenge at the biggest multisport Games in the world will begin on Friday in archery when Syaqiera Mashayikh starts her aims in the women’s ranking round at 9 am Japanese time (8 am Malaysian time), followed by Khairul Annuar Mohamad in the men’s ranking round at 1 pm local time (noon Malaysian time).
The opening ceremony is scheduled at 8 pm (7pm Malaysian time) on Friday, with a limited number of athletes and officials on parade in an almost empty Olympic Stadium amid the COVID-19 scare.
With over 11,000 athletes and officials expected to take part in the Olympics, the organisers on Wednesday confirmed 81 confirmed coronavirus cases related to the Games since July 1.
Athletes testing positive were forced to withdraw from the competitions, while their close contacts will be isolated and tested before a decision is made whether they will be allowed to compete or not.
This Olympics, postponed by a year, is officially scheduled to run from July 23 till Aug 8.