Softball kicks off Olympics, one year late

With a one-year delay, the Tokyo Olympics got underway on Wednesday, as Japanese pitcher Ukiko Ueno made the first pitch of a softball game.

The pitching was a ball a Michelle Cox, from Australia, at 9:02 a.m. (0102 GMT on Tuesday). The match was held at the largely empty Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima and some 150 miles (241 kilometers) from the main Olympic venues in Tokyo.

The teams lined up to hear the national anthems in a stadium with a capacity for 30,000 fans that received just 50 – presumably leaders of the delegations and Olympic officials – in addition to the workers of the press.

Australia took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Ueno, 39, who beat the United States in the 2008 Beijing final, hit Chelsea Forkin with a pitch. She was the second hitter hit by Ueno’s pitches.

They will be erased again for Paris 2024, although they could return in Los Angeles 2028.

The public was banned from the Olympic stands due to the pandemic, which also caused a one-year delay in the Games. Many in Japan keep asking if the Olympics should have been held at a time when there are low levels of vaccination in the country.

The first two days of the softball tournament will take place about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from the site of a nuclear plant disaster in 2011. The remainder of the tournament will take place in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

Much of the approximately 11,000 athletes who will participate in the Games are in the Tokyo area.

Japan seeks to revalidate the gold in softball, after surprising the United States in that final in 2008. Softball and baseball were withdrawn from the Olympic program in 2012 and 2016, but they return for these Games.

They will be erased again for Paris 2024, although they could return in Los Angeles 2028.

Since the match started early in the morning, the sun was dazzling the left-handed batters.

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