Curtain falls on Tokyo 2020

    The fireworks go off as a thank-you note appears on the giant screen inside the Tokyo Olympic Stadium during yesterday’s Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony. , followed by China in second and Japan in third. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach called it “the most difficult Olympic voyage” as the flame was extinguished and the flag was handed over to Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, where the next edition of the 2024 Games will be held. PHOTO: REUTERS

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    The fireworks go off as a thank-you note appears on the giant screen inside the Tokyo Olympic Stadium during yesterday’s Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony. of medals, followed by China in second and Japan in third. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach called it “the most difficult Olympic voyage” as the flame was extinguished and the flag was handed over to Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, where the next edition of the 2024 Games will be held. PHOTO: REUTERS

    The Tokyo 2020 Games were declared closed on Sunday by IOC chief Thomas Bach, who said it was the “most difficult Olympic trip” after a one-year pandemic delay and threats of cancellation.

    Bach called the Tokyo Games “unprecedented” as he spoke at the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium, which was empty of spectators as Japan battled a record-breaking coronavirus outbreak.

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    “In these difficult times we are all living in, you are giving the world the most precious gift: hope,” the president of the International Olympic Committee told the athletes at the ceremony.

    “And now I have to mark the end of this most demanding Olympic trip to Tokyo: I declare the 32nd Olympics closed,” Bach said.

    It marked a smooth end to an excellent Olympics that was held mainly in empty venues with only athletes, team executives and the media.

    Athletes have lived in strict biosecurity conditions with social distance in the Olympic Village and instructions to wear masks unless they are eating, sleeping, training or competing.

    As the Olympic flag was handed over to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo for the 2024 Games, the live footage seemed to excite the crowds in the French capital – in stark contrast to Tokyo.

    Bach has described how the IOC considered canceling the Olympics and claiming the cost of his insurance contract, but said officials were holding the Games “for athletes”.

    On Sunday, the culmination of the biggest sporting event since the pandemic, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge won the men’s marathon and the United States overtook China at the top of the medal table.

    The United States won volleyball, track and field cycling and basketball and topped the standings with 39 gold medals, just one ahead of China.

    The Olympics were hurt by low Japanese support as they advanced with Tokyo and other areas in a state of emergency and with infections multiplying to new highs.

    But Japan’s record of 27 gold to finish third in the table has won hearts. Britain was fourth with 22 and the Russian Olympic Committee, the group of Russian athletes after their country was banned for systematic doping, was fifth with 20.

    The succession of big names failed to appear in Japan, where the new sports skateboarding, surfing, climbing and karate brought new young stars to the fore.

    But the Kipchoge marathon world record showed its order on Sunday, kicking in the final stages and doing 2 hours 08 minutes 38 seconds to maintain the title it won in 2016.

    Tokyo will host the Paralympic Games from August 24. The Olympic circus will reunite in just six months when Beijing, faced with boycott threats and a new coronavirus emergency, hosts the Winter Games in February.

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