"We did it" were the triumphant words of International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - a Games which were hit hard by an unprecedented global health crisis - came to a close here tonight.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the Games to be pushed back by one year and cast doubts over whether they would take place at all.

But in the face of public opposition and endless challenges caused by COVID-19, Tokyo 2020 organisers pulled off what doubters thought was impossible by staging the world’s biggest sporting event during a pandemic.

"You, the Japanese people, can be extremely proud of what you have achieved," said Bach during his closing speech at the Olympic Stadium.

"On behalf of all athletes, we say: "Thank you, Tokyo! Thank you, Japan!.

"We did it for the athletes.

"We did it - together."

The Flame was extinguished when the Olympic Cauldron which was designed like a flower to embody vitality and hope was closed.

It was a poignant moment for Tokyo which delivered 17 days of thrilling sporting action that inspired people around the world despite numerous obstacles.

There were no fans inside the Olympic Stadium with organisers forced to host the event in Tokyo behind closed doors after a state of emergency was declared in the capital.

A group of anti-Olympic protesters gathered outside the venue as they continue to demonstrate against the staging of the Games amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

The concept behind the Closing Ceremony was entitled "Moving Forward" as organisers looked to bring a sense of hope for the future after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ceremony began with a video looking back on the past two weeks where more than 11,000 athletes came together to compete across 33 sports.

The United States topped the medal table ahead of China, with Japan delivering its best ever Olympics courtesy of 58 medals to place third in the rankings.

Three of those medallists - judoka Naohisa Takato, swimmer Yui Ohashi and artistic gymnast Takeru Kitazono - were handed the honour of carrying the Japanese flag into the venue.

Breakdancer Ramu Kawai, a two-time Youth Olympics champion, model Amane and Hiroyuki Yokota, deputy chief medical offer for Tokyo 2020, were also among the six flag bearers.

Following the entry of each participating nations’ flag, athletes entered all at once from four gates before gathering in the centre of the field.

Television viewers - rather than not those inside the stadium - were then treated to a spectacular lighting show as each particle of light joined to form the Olympic Rings.

There were many fantastic musical performances with the Olympic March - a timeless piece which graced the Tokyo 1964 Olympics - playing during the Parade of Athletes before Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra lifted the mood with an upbeat display.

As well as delivering prizes to the medallists in the men’s and women’s marathon, Tokyo 2020 also expressed its gratitude to youngsters by presenting a number of them with gifts.

The hybrid ceremony continued with a series of dances played out on the big screens.

Viewers were taken from Ainu, Ryukyu Eisa, the Nishimonai Bon Odori and Gujo Odori before returning to the Olympic Stadium.

Attention then turned to Paris 2024 with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo accompanying Bach for the Handover Ceremony.

The Olympic Flag was lowered to the sound of the Olympic Anthem which was performed by sopranist Tomotaka Okamoto.

A giant Paris 2024 flag was scheduled to be unfurled at the Eiffel Tower only for bad weather to scupper those plans.

But the Parisian organisers still put on a show with a flag raised virtually as they filmed the entire Handover Ceremony in the host city.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet were present in the capital along with a number of the country’s Olympians including three-time Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto delivered a closing speech before Bach officially declared the end of the Games as the Flame was extinguished.

"I have to mark the end of this most challenging Olympic journey to Tokyo: I declare the Games of the 32nd Olympiad closed," said Bach.

"In accordance with tradition, I call upon the youth of the world to assemble three years from now in Paris, France to celebrate with us the Games of the 33rd Olympiad."

Source: https://www.insidethegames.biz