After a year's delay, and continued COVID-19 impacts, the 2020 Tokyo Games are finally here with Australia sending their second largest Olympic team in history.
With 487 athletes travelling to Tokyo in a team featuring a record number of women and Indigenous athletes, Australians will compete in 33 sports including four new Olympic sports of Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.
With the Opening ceremony this evening, teams are beginning to arrive in Tokyo, training sessions are underway and the best in world sports are coming together. However, it's not all good news for everyone, with more athletes and coaches testing positive and others forced into isolation.
Read on for rolling coverage of the lead up to the Olympics:
FRIDAY 23RD JULY
Campbell and Mills to lead 63 athletes at Opening Ceremony
Australian flag-bearers Cate Campbell and Patty Mills will lead 63 athletes in tonight's march at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games.
They'll be followed by Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman, deputy Chef de Mission and three-time Olympian Susie O'Neill, as well as Sam Stosur, Melissa Wu and Joe Ingles.
The Australian team will march in order of their Olympic appearances, while Campbell and Mills have selected someone important to them to join the cohort.
Swimmer Campbell has chosen her coach Simon Cusack, while Mills has chosen Boomers team manager and close friend Albert Junior Viranatuleo.
The entire Boomers team will also support Mills ahead of Sunday's clash with Nigeria.
Australia will be 36th in the running order of 206 countries marching.
Breaking down the Boomers' Group B opponents
The Boomers enter the group stages of the Tokyo Olympics with a stellar warmup game record under their belt, but what does that mean in the context of their Games? Olgun Uluc breaks down their Group B opponents in Italy, Germany, and Nigeria, and what the Boomers can expect from them to start their Olympics campaign.
Australia's rowing campaign off to strong start
Two of Australia's three crews in action on day one of Olympic rowing have advanced to their next rounds.
In their Olympic debut, Amanda Bateman and Tara Rigney finished third behind the Netherlands and Lithuania, advancing to Monday's double scull semi-finals. The Australians clocked six minutes 53.54 seconds, finishing 3.4 seconds off the pace.
Rio silver medallist Cameron Girdlestone teamed with Olympic debutants Jack Cleary, Caleb Antill and Luke Letcher to finish second in their quadruple sculls heat behind the Dutch, who are the gold medal fancies. That put the Australia crew into Tuesday's final. The Australians rowed 5:41:54 in fast conditions and were 1.74 seconds off the pace.
The women's quadruple sculls crew of Ria Thompson, Harriet Hudson, Rowena Meredith and Caitlin Cronin made a solid start in their heat, but quickly fell off the pace. They crossed the line fourth of five crews and must finish first or second in Sunday's repechage to reach the final.
Mills: 4th-place hurt driving Boomers' chase of history
Boomers star Patty Mills has said the team's history of fourth-placed finishes is driving Australia's desire for a breakthrough medal in Tokyo.
THURSDAY 22ND JULY
Olyroos stun Argentina for opening win
The Olyroos have started their Tokyo Olympics campaign in spectacular fashion with an upset 2-0 victory over Argentina.
Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio were on target in a combative contest which saw 10 players booked and Argentina defender Francisco Ortega sent off before half-time.
Olyroos coach Graham Arnold had promised his players would produce "something special" in Japan and they duly delivered under the closed roof of the Sapporo Dome.
Australia's win, which sees them top the Group C standings, avenged 1-0 defeats to Argentina at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics when the South Americans went on to win gold.
The Olyroos' next game on Sunday is against Spain, who were held to a goalless draw by Egypt in their opener.
Tokyo virus cases near 2,000
Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, one day before the Olympics begin, as worries grow of a worsening of infections during the Games.
Thursday's 1,979 new cases are the highest since 2,044 were recorded on Jan. 15.
Australia secure crucial Oly softball win
After a disappointing Games opener against host nation Japan -- copping an 8-1 drubbing -- the Aussie Spirit have bounced back with a 1-0 victory over Italy.
That's a shutout at the @Olympics for the Aussie Spirit's first win of @Tokyo2020! @kaialynette brilliant with Ellen Roberts taking the final out under pressure with two runners aboard for Italy #TokyoTogether— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) July 22, 2021
Coates issues statement over Palaszczuk exchange
Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates has issued a statement in response to the reaction to his comments regarding Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's attendance at Friday night's Opening Ceremony.
Brisbane was on Wednesday awarded the hosting rights for the 2032 Olympics following a vote in Tokyo, with Coates and Palaszczuk later fronting a press conference to discuss the honour.
But the press conference took a turn when Palaszczuk confirmed she planned to watch the Opening Ceremony from her hotel room because of the risks of COVID, prompting an exasperated response from Coates where he spoke over the top of the Queensland Premier and listed the reasons why she needed to attend Friday night's event.
Coates' comments generated a huge reaction back home in Australia, prompting the IOC's No. 2 official to issue a public statement on Thursday afternoon [AEST].
"My comments regarding the Premier and the Opening Ceremony have been completely misinterpreted by people who weren't in the room," the statement read.
"Absolutely I believe the Premier should come to the Opening Ceremony and she has accepted.
"I am thrilled about that. Attending the Opening Ceremony has always been her choice.
"My view has always been all three levels of government should come to the Opening Ceremony.
"The Premier and I have a long standing and very successful relationship. We both know the spirit of my remarks and I have no indication that she was offended in any way.
"Those in doubt should ask her."
Barty opens Oly campaign against Spaniard
Meanwhile our tennis stars know their fate after the draw was made for the singles. Number one seed and Wimbledon champion Ash Barty faces Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo in round one, with compatriot Alja Tomljanovic taking on the Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova. On the men's side John Millman will meet Italy's Lorenzo Musetti ahead of a potential third round clash with Novak Djokovic. James Duckworth, drafted in for the COVID positive Alex de Minaur will play Slovakian Lukas Klein.
Campbell ready to shoulder 'heavy' flag
A broomstick and the advice of Anna Meares and Lauren Jackson have readied Cate Campbell to lead Australia's procession at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.
Campbell and Patty Mills, both taking part in their fourth Olympics, will serve as Australia's flagbearers on Friday night.
COVID-19 has cast extreme doubt on what these postponed Games will look and feel like, particularly its celebratory ceremonial start that is traditionally associated with pomp, fanfare and camaraderie.
Australia's chef de mission Ian Chesterman expects approximately 50 athletes will march in front of empty stands, adding that number "might even swell".
Campbell, Australia's first female swimmer to serve as flagbearer, and Mills, the first Indigenous Australian to carry the flag, will share the honour of leading the smaller-than-normal group.
Meares and Jackson, who performed the duty in Rio de Janeiro and London respectively, have passed on some advice.
"They both said it is surprisingly heavy," Campbell said.
"I might have got out the broomstick once I got the news.
"But I am assuming that the flag is going to be a lot bigger and heavier than a broomstick."
Andrew 'Boy' Charlton is the only other swimmer to have carried Australia's flag at an Olympics (Los Angeles 1932), while Max Metzker led an Australian contingent under an Olympic flag at Moscow 1980.
Swimming's schedule has been the obvious roadblock preventing some of the nation's most esteemed Olympians from undertaking the responsibility.
WEDNESDAY 21ST JULY
Kerr excels as Australia overcome New Zealand
The Matildas got their Tokyo Olympics campaign off to a near-perfect start, holding off a fast-finishing New Zealand to kick-off the tournament with a 2-1 win.
Brisbane announced as host for 2032 Games
The Olympics and Paralympics are coming back to Australia after Brisbane was officially confirmed as the host city for the 2032 Games.
The IOC announced the news on Wednesday night after hearing a pitch from Australian officials, with the Queensland capital winning in a landslide vote 72-5 (with three abstained).
It sees Brisbane become the third Australian city to host a Games after Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000.
Hosts dish out softball lesson to Aussies
Australia's softball side have opened the Tokyo Olympics with a crushing 8-1 loss to Japan in Fukushima, where the mercy rule was invoked.
Yu Yamamoto cleared the fence early in the bottom of the fifth innings, boosting her side's lead to seven runs and ending the match in the process.
Home runs from Minori Naito and Yamato Fujita, in the third and fourth innings respectively, gave Japan control of proceedings as empty stands and limited fanfare marked the start of the 2021 Games.
Pitcher Mana Kuwabara and catcher Himeno Miyata, local school students who experienced the region's earthquake in 2011, combined for the ceremonial first pitch.
Australia coach Laing Harrow described the responsibility of launching the Games as "privilege" for his charges, who have waited for their sport to return to the Olympics since 2008.
Aussie rider banned from Olympics for drugs
Australian equestrian rider Jamie Kermond has tested positive for cocaine and been suspended from the Tokyo Olympics.
The showjumper tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine in a test on June 26, Equestrian Australia says.
Kermond, a 36-year-old from Victoria, has been provisionally banned from the Tokyo Olympics, the organisation said in a statement on Wednesday.
Could the games be cancelled at the last eleventh hour?
Toshiro Muto, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, says he won't rule out cancelling the Games in the final days before the Opening Ceremony.
Muto said he would keep an eye on COVID-19 infection numbers and liaise with other organisers if necessary.
There have been 67 cases of COVID-19 infections among those accredited for the Games since July. 1.
There has also been a fresh surge in cases outside the Games bubble in the host city, with Tokyo recording 1,387 positive results on Tuesday.
Let the Games begin
After 5 years, we are back to live Olympic action. Australia take on the hosts Japan in Softball, the very first event of the Games. The hosts will be formidable opponents for the Aussie Spirit at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, with Japan winning 7-0 the last time the two teams met at the Asia Pacific Cup in 2020, but Olympic match-ups have been traditionally close affairs.
Arnold talks up OIyroos' chances
Australia coach Graham Arnold says his team is ready to 'shock the world' in Tokyo, despite a stacked group that sees the Olyroos face Argentina, Spain and Egypt.
Making their first appearance at the Games since Beijing 2008, the Olyroos are capable of doing "something special", Arnold says, and that the team comes into the OIympics with high expectations and a desire to put a smile on faces of the many Australians who are currently in COVID-19-enforced lockdown back home.
A 13-YEAR WAIT IS OVER FOR SOFTBALL
Inspired by the Sydney Games, Ellen Roberts' 13-year wait for softball Olympic return is over as the Aussie Spirit pitcher eyes an elusive gold medal. The softball competition is the first to start at the delayed Tokyo Games, with pitcher Roberts one of 14 players to make their Olympics debut for Australia.
TUESDAY 20TH JULY
BARTY WON'T JOIN AUSSIE TEAM IN ATHLETES' VILLAGE
Ash Barty will be based outside the athletes' village during the Tokyo Olympics, with Australia's team boss confident the alternate accommodation will bolster her bid for gold.
Barty, fresh from beating Karolina Pliskova in the Wimbledon final, has touched down in Japan for her first Olympics.
The world No.1 is among Australia's leading medal contenders in Tokyo - with Simona Halep, Serena Williams, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Coco Gauff absent for a range of reasons.
Numerous Olympians from around the world have chosen a different base for this and previous Games; the US men's basketball team memorably stayed on a cruise ship for Rio 2016.
But the spectre of COVID-19 and associated biosecurity protocols have added a degree of complexity to such arrangements for Tokyo.
"Ash is staying elsewhere," Australia's chef de mission Ian Chesterman told reporters.
"We have a number of athletes staying outside the village. We allow that, it's just what works best for them.
"Something I've always been very big on is driving performance takes a whole lot of flexible decisions, flexible options.
"In terms of her performance plan, it's best served by her being able to control her environment and we respect that."
Cambage replacement named
Sara Blicavs has been given a late call-up to the Tokyo Olympics after Liz Cambage's withdrawal from the Opals squad.
Blicavs, whose father and mother both represented Australia in basketball, will make her Olympics debut.
Basketball Australia confirmed on Monday that Cambage is under a code of conduct and integrity investigation for an incident during last week's pre-Games scrimmage against Nigeria.
Opals star Cambage revealed last Friday that she was pulling out of the Olympics, citing mental-health reasons.
"When you face some kind of adversity, when someone leaves the team, it means that you can replace them," Opals coach Sandy Brondello said on Tuesday.
"This is a dream that we all want to achieve in our careers and Sara's been playing great.
"It was really hard to pick that final 12, Sara really was so close to making this team.
"It's nothing that she didn't do, it was more about the balance of the team.
"To make that call the other day to say that she's the player we want made me happy."
-- with AAP
Admin bungle a huge blow to Polish swimmers
Six Polish swimmers have been sent home from the Tokyo Olympics after a heartbreaking administration bungle.
The Polish Swimming Federation announced they sent too many athletes to Tokyo because of an admin error with the impacted swimmers now threatening legal action and calling for the head of the federation to resign.
The Polish Olympic team included 23 swimmers, but has now been cut to just 17, due to a misunderstanding of FINA qualifying standards.
"I would like to express my great regret, sadness and bitterness at the situation," PZP director Pawel Slominski said in a statement, claiming that the error was made due to a desire to "allow as many athletes and coaches as possible to take part".
The swimmers were turned away almost as soon as they touched down in Tokyo.
One of the six snubbed swimmers, Alicja Tchorz, slammed the "incompetence" of the PZP, saying they had "misunderstood the rules".
"Imagine that you sacrifice five years of your life and ... your sacrifice results in a total flop," Tchorz, who took part in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, wrote on social media.
The hard truth behind the athlete village cardboard beds
You would think that world-class athletes would command world-class accommodations. But depending on who you ask, that's not quite the case in the Olympic Village.
When it comes to where athletes are going to lay their heads at night in Tokyo, the focus was more on sustainability than luxury. Rather than Sleep Number beds and sheets of Egyptian cotton, Olympians will be getting shuteye on cardboard beds with polyethylene mattresses.
According to a news release from Inside the Games, the beds "will be recycled into paper products after the Games, with the mattress components recycled into new plastic products."
Team USA bounce back
Over in Las Vegas Team USA completed their, at times chaotic basketball preparations with the women beating Nigeria 93-62 to bounce back from their defeat against the Opals. The men also found some form with a seven point win over Spain in their final match.
More COVID positives
An alternate on the United States women's gymnastics team has tested positive for COVID-19 in an Olympic training camp in Japan. The athlete was a replacement for the women's artistic gymnastics team. USA Gymnastics said: "Accordingly, on Monday, the Olympic athletes moved to separate lodging accommodations and a separate training facility, as originally planned, and will continue their preparation for the Games."
It was also revealed on Monday that U.S. tennis player Coco Gauff tested positive for the virus and will no longer take part in the Tokyo Games. Gauff joins Australian star Alex de Minaur who announced he had tested positive late last week.
South Africa men's sevens campaign has taken a significant hit with their coach Neil Powell testing positive for COVID overnight. The Blitzbok coach has been moved to an isolation facility and will remain their for 14 days, ruling him out of coaching his team from the sidelines.
The team had traveled to Kagoshima City, south of Tokyo on Saturday, four days later than scheduled after they were forced into quarantine in Tokyo after another incident where a passenger on their flight from Doha to Tokyo tested positive for COVID. They were all later cleared.
Powell will continue coaching the side remotely.
Smith hopes to sooth Open pain in Tokyo
Cameron Smith says that the quest to win Olympic golf gold will give him the perfect pick-me-up after "a day that sucked" at the Open Championship.
Australia's No.1 men's golfer was flying back from the UK to his Florida base on Monday, doubtless still feeling a little chastened after a calamitous final round of 74 at Royal St George's.
It was the day's joint-second worst of any player in the field - and proved an anti-climactic end to Smith's latest bid to win a major.
"It's kind of disappointing to end the week like this but I feel like my game's in a really good spot, I feel like I'm playing really good golf," Smith said.
"Three rounds this week in Sandwich, I'm up there.
"A couple of tweaks here or there and I'm sure I'll be up the leaderboard at the Olympics."
Asked if he was in need of a tonic that an Olympic appearance might provide, the 27-year-old conceded: "Yes, we've got a really busy end of the year, there's no point in really dwelling on what happened today.
"That's just how golf is sometimes, you've just got to get on with it... Days like this suck but you end up learning so much from them."
What spurs Smith on is his pride in playing for Australia.
"Any chance I can get to represent my country, that's the biggest honour you can have as a professional," he said.
"Any chance I can get to represent the green and gold, I'm there - and I'll give it my best."
Aussie teams prepare
Meanwhile, the Boomers have been enjoying their time in Las Vegas after they defeated Team USA, Nigeria and Argentina last week in their final preparations for Tokyo. As they pack their bags and say farewell to their families, Olgun Uluc has listed all the key lessons the Boomers learnt in Sin City and what they'll need to do to finally reach the podium.
To get themselves in the right spirit for their journey ahead, they were presented with their jerseys as well as some special features to their uniform on Sunday.
Australia's softballers have been in Tokyo for several weeks now and take to the field for their first match on Wednesday night. In order to get to Fukishima, they've taken in the sights on the world famous fast train.
The bulk of Australia's Olympic team arrived in Tokyo over the weekend, including the swimming team featuring some of Australia's biggest medal hopefuls. They'll soon be joined by Australia's men's and women's sevens teams who have flown out of Sydney on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon quarter finalist and Croatian-born Australian tennis star Ajla Tomljanovic says it's a "dream come true" to feature in her first Olympic Games. "I come from a family where Olympics were a big thing," she said. "It's for your country, it's for the people ... so you can see that it means a lot to the athletes."
"It's for your country, it's for the people"— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) July 19, 2021
Cherishing the chance to represent Australia at #Tokyo2020, Ajla Tomljanovic can't wait for her first Olympics experience. #GoAussies #TokyoTogether @ajlatom @AUSOlympicTeam pic.twitter.com/3FDeufSnw6
We are the New Zealand Team
New Zealand have released a special embroidery message sewed onto its athletes' Opening Ceremony jackets ahead of the Tokyo Games.
"We have been wearing the silver fern for 100 years," the message reads. "At the Tokyo Olympic Games we come together to honour this legacy, and share in its future."
New Zealand is celebrating 100 years since its first Olympics back in 1920 in Antwerp - the team even travelled nine weeks by boat to get there!