Honour to open Olympics: Aust softballers

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The world's sporting gaze will be on Australia's softball side on Wednesday morning, when their match against Japan marks the beginning of a unique Olympics that has been enveloped in uncertainty since the advent of COVID-19.

Australia's clash with defending Olympic champions Japan, beginning at 1000 AEST, comes 16 months after the first Olympic postponement in history.

The wait for the opening pitch has presumably felt like an eternity for the International Olympic Committee, whose president Thomas Bach admitted even he harboured doubts about these Games getting underway.

Elite softballers, whose sport has not been part of an Olympics since 2008, have arguably felt the anticipation build more than any other Olympians.

Australia coach Laing Harrow predicted his side will feed off the excitement associated with launching softball's Olympic return and the start of Tokyo 2021.

"It's a privilege for us to open up the Olympics with Japan," Harrow told reporters.

"It's been such a long process to get here and to have the opportunity to open up against Japan, our girls are really looking forward to that opportunity and are very excited about it."

Captain Stacey Porter, who won silver at the 2004 Games then bronze in Beijing, is the only member of Australia's 15-strong squad who isn't playing at her first Olympics.

The stakes for Porter and teammates are also raised because softball won't be part of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Japan-Australia contest, in a sport that attracts heaving crowds and spirited support throughout the host nation, was set to be a symbolic beginning for the Games at Fukushima's Azuma baseball stadium.

The region, still recovering from its 2011 nuclear disaster, held out hope of hosting spectators until July 10.

A spike in nearby coronavirus cases ensured those plans were scuppered, meaning there will be decidedly less fanfare as Australia start their bid to win gold.

"For the stands to be empty, it is disappointing for athletes," Harrow said.

"It's the situation the world is in at the moment ... I know the girls will be giving it everything they have and enjoying the moment of being out on the diamond."

Japan coach Reika Utsugi insisted her country "made the right decision to host the Olympics" despite public disapproval.

Australia's squad are no strangers to attracting global media attention, having departed Sydney in May to become the first Olympians to arrive in Tokyo for these Games.

The training camp and tune-ups in Ota City allowed the Spirit to become accustomed to both biosecurity bubble life and Japan's sapping heat.

"It's about day 47 for us ... we know it's extremely hot," Harrow said.

"It's going to be the same for every team here. Our staff have prepared our girls well and we're pretty comfortable with the situation we're in."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting