Australian softball squad flies to Japan for Olympic camp

Australia’s Olympic softball squad has flown out of Sydney bound for Japan and will be among the earliest arrivals for the Tokyo Games

The so-called Aussie Spirit will be in camp in Ota City, north of Tokyo, and will narrow the squad down from 23 to 15 ahead of their opening Olympic game against host Japan on July 21 — two days before the official opening ceremony.

Fans from abroad have already been barred from attending the Olympics, and there’s increasing speculation that games will be held in empty stadiums.

A state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and other prefectures was last week extended until June 20 as COVID-19 cases continue to put the medical system under strain.

Cancellation pressure grows daily on Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee as more questions arise about the risks of bringing 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from more than 200 countries and territories into Japan.

The IOC says more than 80% of athletes and staff staying in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay will be vaccinated. They are expected to remain largely in a bubble at the village and at venues.

“All staff and players heading to Japan today are fully vaccinated thanks to the Australian Olympic Committee,” Pryles said. “They’ll also be undergoing stringent testing and checks as soon as they land at the airport and throughout their camp and (the) Olympics.”

Pryles said player movements would be restricted to one level of the team hotel in Ota, which would include meals, meetings and gym work, and the stadium where they’ll play a series of games against local professional teams and two games against Japan’s national team.

“We’re incredibly grateful the people of Ota City and their government for hosting the squad who will respect the restrictions placed upon us,” he said.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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