Japan win softball opener as Games 'of hope' begin

The Tokyo Olympics finally began on Wednesday with softball matches in an empty stadium in Fukushima.

Host country Japan's women's softball team won the opening game, thrashing Australia in a boost for an event that's seen opposition in the country and with spectators barred from venues to minimize health risks.

The head of the World Health Organization gave his blessing as the Games began.

That, despite COVID-19 cases rising in Japan, and government warnings that infections could spike to a record high of 3,000 in the first week of August.

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

Tokyo is under a state of emergency and facing opposition inside the country, as it welcomes more than 11,000 athletes, staff and media.

The Games, which have already been postponed a year, will also only be attended by less than 20 country leaders, down from as many as 120 originally scheduled.

In a recent poll in the Asahi newspaper, 68% of respondents expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organizers to control coronavirus infections.

The first six women's soccer matches were also set to round out on Wednesday's first day of events and the opening ceremony is being prepared for Friday.

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