The Australian softball team will be based in Ota for pre-Games training. AFP/Kazuhiro Nogi
TOKYO - Australia's softball team became the first athletes to arrive in Japan for the Olympics on Tuesday, in a major step forward for the pandemic-postponed Games as organisers battle coronavirus fears.
The arrival offered a taste of the strict biosecurity measures that the Games will entail. All members of the delegation are vaccinated, but they still had to be tested before travel and on arrival.
They filed off the plane sporting masks and green and gold uniforms, escorted by greeters wearing hats featuring the Olympic and Paralympic mascots.
Rows of chairs were set up for them in an airport corridor, where they filled out paperwork as staff in plastic aprons, masks and protective glasses came round to check the documents.
But the mood was still celebratory - with team members waving to the media and snapping selfies - and the arrival is likely to be a boost for organisers as they tackle persistent doubts about the Games.
Polls show most in Japan want the Olympics postponed again or cancelled altogether, despite assurances from organisers that strict rules will keep athletes and the public safe.
In a statement, "Aussie Spirit" head coach Robert Harrow said the team would be respectful of residents and "fall in line with the rules applied to us during our stay to keep everyone safe".
"We will be focused purely on our training during our time in camp," he added.
Many towns in Japan have cancelled plans to host Olympic training camps over virus fears, but Ota's mayor Masayoshi Shimizu said the city was "very pleased" to be welcoming the team.
"Training will be held in a limited environment due to the coronavirus but we will give them maximum support so that they can get ready and be in their best condition for the Games," he said.