Tokyo 2020 announces opening event despite mounting virus concerns

Published March 13, 2020
The gold and bronze medal games are scheduled for Yokohama on July 28.  — AP/File
The gold and bronze medal games are scheduled for Yokohama on July 28. — AP/File

TOKYO: Tokyo 2020 organisers said on Thursday that Japan’s softball game against Australia on July 22 would be the first event on the schedule, the announcement coming as concerns mount about the potential impact on the Games from the coronavirus outbreak.

The game will begin at 9 a.m. local time (0000 GMT) at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium with top-ranked United States will playing Italy in the second game of a tripleheader, followed by a Mexico-Canada matchup.

It will mark the first day of action at the Games, which officially begin with the opening ceremony on July 24.

Another tripleheader at Fukushima follows on July 23, when the US play Canada.

After a day off for the opening ceremonies in Tokyo, the rest of softball’s round robin is to take place from July 25-27 in Yokohama, just outside Tokyo. The Americans face Mexico on July 25, Australia the following day and Japan on July 27.

The gold and bronze medal games are in Yokohama on July 28.

The US won the gold medal in 1996, 2000 and 2004, then lost to Japan in the 2008 gold medal game. Softball was dropped from the next two Olympics, then restored for 2020. It is likely to be left off for the 2024 Games and could be added again for 2028 in Los Angeles.

The schedule announcement comes amid fears that the coronavirus outbreak, labelled a pandemic by the WHO on Wednesday, could have a major impact on the Games.

The outbreak has led to the cancellation or postponement of dozens of major sporting events across the globe, including the NBA season.

An organising committee member said late on Wednesday that any decision to delay the Olympics should be made before May but on Thursday Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said there was no change in planning for the Games.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch lighting ceremony to be held in ancient Olympia will be held without spectators and children will not be in attendance, as previously planned, when the Olympic flame arrives in Japan on March 20.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2020

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