Softball to give Tokyo 2020 symbolic start

FILE PHOTO: President of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic organising committee Yoshiro Mori attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - A softball game in Fukushima prefecture will give the Tokyo 2020 Olympics a symbolic start after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board approved the Games’ session schedule at its meeting in Lausanne on Wednesday.

The softball program, along with football, starts two days before the July 24 opening ceremony due to the number of games to be played. Fukushima prefecture was one of the areas hardest hit by the 2011 earthquake.

“Starting with a softball match in Fukushima two days before the opening of the Games, until the men’s marathon on the final day, a record 33 sports and 339 events will be packed into the two weeks of the Games,” Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said in a statement.

Amid concerns about athlete safety during the marathon, both sessions are due to begin early in the morning in a bid to avoid the extreme heat and humidity usually experienced in the Japanese capital during July.

Japan is currently experiencing a heatwave that has left over a dozen people dead and hospitalized thousands, leading to fears of similar problems when the Olympics rolls into town in two years’ time [nL8N1UE1P5].

The men’s marathon, as per tradition, will be run on the final day of the Games, Aug. 9, while the women’s race will be staged a week earlier.

The men’s cycling road race will be held on day one of competition, on a route that winds its way from Tokyo to the base of Mount Fuji, while surfing, which is making its Olympic debut, will start on the first weekend in a bid to increase scheduling flexibility in the event of weather issues.

The competition schedule for swimming and diving events have yet to be announced.

Writing by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Peter Rutherford