dpa – The Tokyo Olympics closed on Sunday behind closed doors with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach calling them “Games of hope, solidarity and peace” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to tradition, Bach closed the July 23-August 8 Summer Games in the presence of Japanese crown prince Akishino and speaking French invited the youth of the world to the Games of the 33rd Olympiad in Paris 2024.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo received the Olympic flag in the Tokyo stadium, a giant flag was shown at the Eiffel Tower while French astronaut Thomas Pesquet played the final chords of the national anthem on a saxophone from the International Space Station. The French capital already staged the Games twice, in 1900 and 1924.
Breakdancers showed off their skills ahead of the sport joining the Olympic programme in three years and French president Emmanuel Macron presented the modified Olympic motto “faster, higher, stronger, together.”
The French will hope that that the pandemic has disappeared by then, after the Tokyo Games were postponed last year and after long doubts and big reservations within Japan took place amid a strict hygiene concept. “In these difficult times you give the world the most precious of gifts: hope,” Bach said in his closing speech surrounded by athletes from all continents. “For the first time since the pandemic began, the entire world came together. 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,” Bach said, speaking of “Games of hope, solidarity and peace.”
Bach thanked the Japanese organizers and the thousands of volunteers for an “unprecedented Olympic Games” and added: “You, the Japanese people, can be extremely proud of what you have achieved.” Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto thanked everyone involved in making the Games possible and “our journey isn’t finished yet” because the Paralympics follow from August 24. Athletes from more than 60 of the 206 nations and teams competing at the Games were no longer present for the ceremony, according to the IOC – mainly because coronavirus rules made athletes leave within 48 hours after their competition. Those left arrived in the stadium socially distanced with flagbearers including Dutch three-time running medallist Sifan Hassan, British cyclist Laura Kenny and Italian shock 100 metre champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs.
Organizers said the concept of the ceremony in a park-like setting was to create “a relaxing environment in which the athletes can unwind” after “we had to overcome countless obstacles and resolve many conflicts to hold and open these Games amid the Covid-19 pandemic.” The victory ceremony for the marathons held in Sapporo were part of it all, a ska band and a DJ recreated an afternoon in a Tokyo park before dances from different regions of the country and the original dance from the 1964 Games in Tokyo which received big applause from the athletes. The ceremony concluded after the extinguishing of the Olympic flame with fireworks and the word Arigato (Thank You) displayed on the screen using the same font as in the 1964 closing ceremony.