One year ago today: Softball opens Tokyo 2020 Olympics

One year ago today: Softball opens Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Softball made its Olympic return after being out of the Games for the 2012 and 2016 editions.

One year ago today was a day to remember for softball and the entire sports world. That day, the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games kicked off with a softball game between Japan and Australia, marking softball’s comeback to the Olympics after 13 years. The game took place two days before the opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Games.

With no fans in the stands, the historic day had a special visit in the early morning when an Asian black bear was spotted inside Azuma Sports Park the morning before the games. During the event, crowd noise was played at the stadium to replace fans’ absence.

The first two days of the softball competition took place in Azuma stadium in Fukushima. The region was devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, so it was a symbol of rejuvenation and recovery.

Tokyo 2020’s first sport action was a ball from Japanese ace Yukiko Ueno to Australia’s leadoff hitter Michelle Cox. Ueno tossed the last pitch of the Beijing 2008 Games, to clinch the historic gold medal for Japan.

"All I felt was excitement before the game", Ueno said. "I just want to make sure I give these Games everything I have to offer, to the very last drop.”

The other two pitchers in Beijing 2008 final were also in the circle on Day 1. US lefties Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott combined to shutout Italy in the 2-0 win to open the Olympic campaign that would end with the second silver medal in a row for USA.

The last game of the day was a Canada 4-0 victory over Mexico. It was Mexico’s debut in the Olympic softball, and also the beginning of a bronze medal tournament for Canada, the first-ever Olympic medal for the Canadian team.

It was the first of six competition days. After six games in Fukushima, the tournament was paused on July 23 for the Opening Ceremony, and then continued at Yokohama Stadium.

On 21 July 2021, as softball was opening the Tokyo 2020 Games, Brisbane was named host city of the 2032 Olympic Games.