© Reuters. Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 – Basketball 3×3 Training – Aomi Urban Sports Park, Tokyo, Japan – July 21, 2021 The Olympic rings can be seen on a flag during training REUTERS / Andrew Boyers
FUKUSHIMA / TOKYO (Reuters) – The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, postponed by the pandemic, began on Wednesday when Japanese softball thrower Yukiko Ueno kicked off the game competition, which the World Health Organization head said was required as a "celebration of hope" .
Rising COVID-19 cases in the host city of Tokyo have overshadowed the world's largest sporting event, which takes place largely without a spectator. Japan decided this month that attendees will compete in empty venues to minimize health risks.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Games should continue to show the world what can be achieved with the right plan and actions.
"May the rays of hope in this country light a new morning for a healthy, safer and more just world," he said, holding up an Olympic torch. "I sincerely hope the Tokyo Games are successful."
However, Tedros warned that the world was in the early stages of another wave of infections and criticized the vaccine discrepancies between countries.
Olympic and Japanese officials have continued the sports spectacle despite resistance in the country to the admission of more than 11,000 athletes and their staff and media amid rising COVID-19 infections.
To underline the downsized Games due to the pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will only meet fewer than 20 country leaders on the sidelines of the Olympic Games, out of 120 originally planned.
In a recent poll in Asahi newspaper, 68% of respondents expressed doubts about the Olympic organizers' ability to control coronavirus infections and 55% said they were against hosting the Games.
Japanese domestic media reports that government adviser Shigeru Omi said daily COVID-19 infections in Tokyo could rise to a record high of 3,000 in the first week of August.
That would pose an extremely high risk of putting pressure on the already tense medical system.
Two more softball games and the first six women's soccer games are planned for later Wednesday. The opening ceremony is Friday.
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