The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games came to a close yesterday with a ceremony that was variously poignant and upbeat, celebrated the achievements of the athletes and looked to the future.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the games were the first ever to be postponed and, with Tokyo put into a state of emergency a fortnight before the event due to rising case levels, it took place with strict health measures in place.
Spectators were unable to attend events in the Japanese capital, the 10,000-plus athletes were tested daily and they were banned from leaving the Olympic village other than for training or competing.
Both the opening and closing ceremonies were met with protests against the games outside the National Stadium.
Indeed, as the Olympics ended, cases in Tokyo were spiking to record levels, with over 4,000 new cases reported yesterday.
However, the games largely went off without a hitch, with a relatively low 404 games-related coronavirus infections reported and the remarkable sporting feats of the athletes beamed around the world in what became a ‘made-for TV’ event.
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That positivity was perhaps reflected in a closing ceremony that was at times more upbeat than the curtain-raiser two weeks ago – no doubt tinged with a degree of relief – with the stadium transformed into a park so that viewers could “experience Tokyo.”
The note of tentative hope struck at the opening ceremony was reiterated by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
Of the athletes, Bach said: "Over the last 16 days, you amazed us with your sporting achievements. With your excellence, with your joy, with your tears, you created the magic of these Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“You were faster, you went higher, you were stronger, because we all stood together – in solidarity. You were competing fiercely with each other for Olympic glory. At the same time, you were living peacefully together under one roof in the Olympic Village. This is a powerful message of solidarity and peace.
"You inspired us with this unifying power of sport. This was even more remarkable given the many challenges you had to face because of the pandemic. In these difficult times, you give the world the most precious of gifts: hope."
Thanking the hosts, Bach continued: “You, the Japanese people, can be extremely proud of what you have achieved. On behalf of all athletes, we say: Thank you, Tokyo! Thank you, Japan!”
Seiko Hashimoto, president of Tokyo 2020, added: “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.
“Even as the Games close, a new door opens: 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.”
Before then, though, the Paralympic Games open in Tokyo on 24 August, running through until 5 September, and they'll be followed by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which are due to run from 4 to 20 February.