Japan, Australia to open Tokyo Olympics with Fukushima softball game

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Japan and Australia will play the first sporting event of the Tokyo Olympics, a softball game in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo.

Japan and Australia will play on Wednesday, July 22, at 9 a.m. local time (Tuesday evening U.S. time), two days before the Opening Ceremony. In Summer Olympics, soccer matches have traditionally started days before the Opening Ceremony, though the first soccer match will not be held before the first softball game in Japan.

Italy and the U.S. will play the second softball game Wednesday at 12 p.m. local time.

The Olympic softball schedule was announced Wednesday evening.

Softball was added in 1991 to the Olympic program to debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The U.S. won the first three gold medals before softball and baseball were narrowly voted off the Olympic program in 2005/06 (a 52-52 IOC vote for softball, with a majority needed to stay in the Olympics), with the 2008 Beijing Games being the last edition. Japan won the last Olympic softball gold medal in 2008.

Then on Aug. 3, 2016, baseball and softball were among five sports added for the 2020 Tokyo Games only, at the request of Tokyo Olympic organizers. Baseball and softball will not remain on the Olympic program for the 2024 Paris Games.

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