Relief as the Tokyo Olympics finally begin

The Tokyo Olympics finally got under way yesterday, without spectators and a year late after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Games to be postponed.

As the action began in Japan before tomorrow's opening ceremony, the first event saw the host nation thrash Australia 8-1 in softball in disaster-hit Fukushima.

"I feel relieved," said Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno.

The venue was chosen to underline Tokyo's original slogan as the "Recovery and Reconstruction Games" after the region was ravaged by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The game took place in an empty Azuma Stadium as spectators are barred from most events following a surge in Covid-19 cases in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.

The Olympics are being staged in biosecure "bubble" conditions, with athletes tested daily and under orders to stay socially distanced and wear masks when not competing, training, eating or sleeping.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told International Olympic Committee members yesterday that the Games could never be "zero risk".

"There is no zero risk in life; there is only more risk, or less risk. And you have done your best," he told the delegates.

He added that the mark of success in the coming fortnight is not zero cases, but "making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible".

Four competitors, including British shooter Amber Hill, the world No. 1 in the women's skeet, were ruled out of the Games after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Britain and the United States both took the knee before their openers in women's football, after a ban on protests was eased to allow political gestures pre-match.

Britain beat Chile 2-0 but four-time champions the US, featuring former World Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe, suffered the first shock of the Games as they went down 3-0 to Sweden. It was the Americans' first defeat in 45 matches.

In the first drugs case of the Games, Australian showjumper Jamie Kermond, 36, was provisionally suspended after testing positive for cocaine on June 26.

Australian media outlets reported that Kermond said his positive "A" sample result was likely from a "single recreational use of the drug" during a social event and had no connection with his sport. - AFP, REUTERS