TOKYO: The 2020 Olympic Games came to an end Sunday after a stunning closing ceremony at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, but still under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to spread across host nation Japan.
The Tokyo Olympics, brilliantly executed with Japan's famed efficiency on full display, despite being postponed for a year due to the spread of COVID-19, attracted about 11,000 athletes from 205 countries and regions, plus a team of refugees, in a record 339 events across 33 sports.
After more than two weeks of thrilling competition full of twists and turns, the Olympic flag was ceremonially lowered with the Governor of Tokyo KOIKE Yuriko handing over to Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, via IOC president Thomas Bach.
The next edition of the Olympic Games will be hosted by Paris in 2024.
The gift of hope
“For the first time since the pandemic began, the entire world came together,” Bach said. “Sport returned to centre stage. Billions of people around the globe were united by emotion, sharing moments of joy and inspiration. This gives us hope. This gives us faith in the future.”
During a spectacular evening full of colour, dance and swirling rings, the Olympic flame, which has continued to burn bright ever since the opening ceremony, was extinguished and as fireworks sparkled overhead, the word ‘Arigato’ (thank you) was displayed on LED screens inside the stadium in the same font that was used to spell out ‘Sayonara’ (goodbye) at the conclusion of the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games.
“Tonight the Olympic flame that has lit up Tokyo will quietly go out. But the hope that has been ignited here will never be extinguished,” Tokyo 2020 President HASHIMOTO Seiko said.
“These Games took place in the midst of a severe pandemic, and I would like to express my deep gratitude to all those in medical services, to everyone who supported and contributed to the Games, and to our hosts, the people of Japan.
“To all the volunteers who supported the Games: these Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are a testament to your strength, your power and your love for sport.
“To my fellow Olympians: there are no words to describe what you have achieved in Tokyo. You have accepted what seemed unimaginable, understood what had to be done, and through hard work and perseverance overcome unbelievable challenges. This has made you true Olympians.
“One athlete's jubilant victory is another's bitter defeat. Yet in the space of an instant, winner and loser come together in the same feeling of acknowledgement and respect. This is the beauty of the Olympic Games. This is the value of the Olympic spirit. Please never forget that sight. And in the future, tell the story of what you achieved here with confidence and pride.”
Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together
In an Olympic first, the closing ceremony was split between two countries and featured live celebrations from the next host city as viewers were taken to Paris where a giant flag of the 2024 Games was shown from the Eiffel Tower.
France’s elite air display team Patrouille de France flew overhead colouring the sky in the tricolour of blue, white and red, while celebrations got underway on the streets below with a public party and concert.
Earlier, viewers were transported on a tour of all four corners of the City of Lights as the city prepares to host the Games in three years’ time; from the roof of the Stade de France to the Notre-Dame Cathedral, from the Louvre Museum to the skatepark on Square Diderot in Saint-Denis and even into space, with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet concluding events as he gazed out of the International Space Station towards Japan.
“Even as the Games close, a new door opens,” President Hashimoto said. “A door to the future, opened by athletes and the power of sport. ‘Sport has the power to change the world and our future’ – and this power, I believe, will carry us through to the next Summer Games in Paris in 2024."
See you at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
Although the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has drawn to a close, a video featuring Paralympic stars from previous Games was played as a prelude to the Paralympics that will get underway in the city from 24 August.
It was the first time the Paralympic Games has been featured in the closing ceremony of an Olympic Games as Tokyo prepares, once again, to welcome the world’s greatest Para athletes to its shores.
“Our journey continues,” President Hashimoto added. “Athletes around the world have believed in their own potential and overcome adversity to become Paralympic hopefuls.
“Now it is time for them to make their mark. We at Tokyo 2020 are ready and waiting for the Paralympic Games.”
The Olympics began amid a state of emergency declared for Tokyo and Okinawa Prefecture. The competitions took place mostly as planned, with no spectators at most of the venues and with other measures taken to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.