The Japanese softball team scores a victory to start off the Games.

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TOKYO — The first competition of the Games began with a ball and ended with a home run.

Michelle Cox, the leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team, took a low pitch from Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno in an empty stadium in Fukushima on Wednesday in the first competitive act of the Tokyo Olympics.

The pitch — after a bit of pregame pageantry that included the introduction of several officials and dignitaries — officially kicked off an edition of the Games that was years in the making and one year delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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It was also the last offensive highlight for Australia. Japan responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the first, two in the third and three in the fourth. And when Yu Yamamoto hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, Japan’s lead was 8-1 and the mercy rule was invoked, ending the game.

The game, two days before the opening ceremony, was the first of three in softball and a half-dozen in soccer that saw the first athletes take the field in the Games. Japan and Australia got the honor of going first; their game at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium was to be followed by matchups involving the United States and Italy and between Mexico and Canada.

Later on Wednesday, six matches — including the United States’ opener against Sweden in Tokyo Stadium — were to open the women’s soccer tournament.

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It is not uncommon for Olympic competition to begin before the opening ceremony, a consequence of a tight schedule and expanded tournaments that can require longer than the Games’ official 17-day window to complete.

Cox, the first batter, made the most of her moment in the Olympic spotlight: She worked a full count against Ueno and then beat out an infield single back to the pitcher.

Ueno, Japan’s starter, had a rough inning. After giving up a single to Cox, she walked a batter and hit the next two with pitches. That allowed Cox to score the game’s — and the Games’ — first run.

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But the hosts’ early nerves soon disappeared, and they steadily pulled away until, with one swing, Yamamoto sealed their victory.

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