Tokyo Olympics: Amid COVID-19 scare, Australia softball team first to arrive in Tokyo

Tokyo Olympics: Australia softball team first to arrive in Tokyo amid state of emergency and COVID-19 scare, to train in Ota
Tokyo Olympics: Australia softball team first to arrive in Tokyo amid state of emergency and COVID-19 scare | Softball Australia, Kyodo News

Tokyo Olympics: With just 50 days left for the Tokyo Olympics, members of Australia’s women softball team is the first overseas contingent to touch down in Tokyo on Tuesday for the Olympics.

As per Kyodo News, the squad’s arrived at a hotel in Ota, around 80 kilometers northwest of Tokyo. The 20 “Aussie Spirit” players and nine staff, who came via Singapore, will hold training sessions in the city in Gunma Prefecture from Saturday through July 17, the report added.

Softball Australia CEO David Pryles said that the athletes are going through the “most stringent measures possible” to arrive in Japan during a national emergency and severe restrictions. However, the players and staff will be in a bio-bubble, completely separated from the public.

“As soon as we arrive, we go into a bus that takes us three hours north to Ota city. Then all the bedrooms, all the meeting rooms, all the dining rooms — and we’re taking our own gym equipment — that will be based on one floor only,” Pryles told Kyodo News.

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Tokyo Olympics: During their stay in Japan, the players will not be allowed to leave the hotel other than going to the training facilities. There will be no in-person meetings and all the cultural exchanges with local school children happening virtually.

“Effectively we’re quarantining on one floor, but the only reason why we’re leaving is to go straight to the ballpark so we don’t have any connection with anyone,” Pryles said.

While life inside bio-bubbles has been difficult as the Australian contingent knows from the country’s cricket team, the players are ready to sacrifice for the greater good. The team hasn’t practised together since February 2020 due to Australia’s own COVID-19 restrictions.

Tokyo Olympics: “We do have a couple of games scheduled against the Japanese national team, so we just need to get games into the girls. We’ve been to four Olympic games, we’ve won a medal at four Olympic Games, so we are aiming to win a medal (in Tokyo),” Pryles said.

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Tahli Moore, Australia’s softball player, who will be going to the Olympics for the first time, said she is disappointed that she would not be able to see the country. But she is happy to be able to travel to another country again.

“With everything that’s going on in the world right now with COVID, I’m really confident with the approach that we’re taking and how the Australian Olympic Committee is really putting our health first and making sure that we’re all vaccinated. To know that we’re going to be the first team over there, it’s pretty special,” Moore said.

Tokyo Olympics: Australia’s softball match against Japan will be the first game of the Tokyo Olympics on July 21. “It is a real shame that the next generation of athletes, not just for softball, but in Japan (in general) don’t really have that engagement with the best athletes in the world coming over,” said Pryles, who looks forward to being able to engage with Japanese fans again in the future.

The team arrives in Tokyo amid growing opposition to the Games. A recent poll suggested that around 80% of Japanese people are against the Summer Games and want it to be either cancelled or postponed. However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese organising committee are defiant on going ahead with the games.

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