The Tokyo Olympics end with Closing Ceremony

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'Humility over hubris': See the most heartwarming moments from Tokyo 2020
02:17 - Source: CNN

What we covered here.

  • Today’s Olympics Closing Ceremony just wrapped up, bringing an end to the Tokyo 2020 Games, which were delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Team USA finished the Olympics atop the medal table after trailing China for several days.
  • See the best moments from these Games here.

Our live coverage has ended, but you can read more about the 2020 Games here.

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As a Games like no other ends, Japan reflects on its lasting legacy

Fireworks explode over Tokyo's National Stadium during the Olympics' closing ceremony on August 8, 2021.

As a child, Hiroko Fujita watched the 1964 Tokyo Games on television. Now remembered as an event that brought live Olympics sports to the world, Fujita told CNN how thrilling it had been to witness competitions on the magic box as Japan’s economy boomed. 

However, as a ticket-holder, she had looked forward to watching the Tokyo 2020 Games in person this year. 

While Tokyo 1964 showcased Japan as an emerging global power on the international stage, with Tokyo 2020, Japan had hoped to revive its stagnating economy. It had also expected to paint the mega-sporting event as a symbol of the country’s recovery from the destruction and tragedy of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. 

But as the pandemic continued to ravage the world and the Games were delayed by a year, Japan shifted its message to focus on how these Olympics represented the world’s ability to unite and overcome Covid-19. Throughout these Games, the people CNN spoke to in prefectures as diverse as Saitama, Fukushima and Shizuoka expressed mixed and deeply divided feelings towards the Summer Games.

Anti-Olympic protesters told CNN the Games should be canceled as it cost lives and livelihoods amid the pandemic.

But as competitions kicked off and Japan’s gold medal count racked up, the public’s mood also shifted. Hiroki Kadote told CNN he wanted the Games to be held so athletes could achieve their personal bests.

Minori Omori a shopkeeper in Tokyo’s Koto ward said he spent his days camped out in front of his TV to follow the wins and upsets.

Others defied the state of emergency order in Tokyo and gathered outside Olympic venues to catch a glimpse of competitors and snap selfies and photographs to look back on.

However, as coronavirus cases surge in and around the nation to record highs, and tens of thousands of athletes, journalists and officials prepare to pack up and leave on Monday, Japan will be left to grapple with the lasting legacy of these Summer Games for months and years to come. 

Whether Japan pulled off the impossible or was left to deal with the consequences of an Olympics like no other will remain to be seen.

2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is less than 6 months away

Tokyo 2020 may well be over but Olympic fans won’t have to wait long for another fix of action.

The 2022 Winter Olympics is set to begin in less than six months with Beijing hosting the sporting spectacle at the start of February.

And, with this year’s Games being postponed by a year because of the pandemic, the next Summer Games in Paris is just three years away.

You can also check out this year’s Paralympic Games starting Aug. 24. Those Games will also be played in Tokyo.

Tokyo 2020's best moments: In pictures

It’s time to say sayonara.

But as one final reminder of what the Olympic Games have brought us — medals and emotions amid a global pandemic — over the last few weeks, you can check out CNN photo team’s selection of some of the images that defined Tokyo 2020 here.

Fireworks explode over Tokyo's National Stadium at the end of the Olympics' closing ceremony on August 8. The word "arigato," seen at left, means thank you in Japanese.
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge, who won the gold medal in the marathon, listens as his country's National Anthem is played during his medal ceremony on August 8. The medal ceremonies for both the men's and women's marathon took place during the closing ceremony. And that meant two playings of the Kenyan National Anthem, as Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir won gold in the women's event.
Sky Brown competes in the park skateboarding final on August 4. Brown, who at 13 is Great Britain's youngest-ever athlete to compete in the Summer Olympics, won a bronze medal. Japan's Sakura Yosozumi won the gold, and her compatriot Kokona Hiraki won the silver. Hiraki is just 12 years old.
US gymnast Simone Biles is congratulated by coach Cecile Canqueteau-Landi as it became evident that Biles would earn a medal on August 3. Biles now has seven Olympic medals, tying her with Shannon Miller for the most by an American gymnast.
New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard competes in weightlifting on August 2. She is the first openly transgender woman to compete in the 125-year history of the Olympics.

IOC president Thomas Bach declares Tokyo 2020 Games closed

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, center, and others on stage each form a heart with their hands during the closing ceremony.

The president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach addressed the stadium, and the world, as he brought an official end to Tokyo 2020.

In his speech, Bach thanked the athletes and the Japanese people for their hard work and sacrifices in staging the most logistically challenging Olympic Games in history.

All that’s left to do is extinguish the Olympic flame, which has been burning inside the stadium since the Opening Ceremony.

French Air Force aerobatic team paints Paris sky red, white and blue in spectacular fly-by

The Patrouille de France fly over celebrations at the Trocadéro in Paris.

Meanwhile in Paris, the sky has been painted red, while and blue by the Patrouille de France — the French Air Force’s aerobatic team — over the French capital.

That definitely delivered two parts, faster and higher, of the Olympic movement’s “Faster, Higher, Stronger — Together” motto.

Meanwhile there is a celebration going on at the Trocadéro, where Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet and several French athletes, who have returned from Tokyo, are joining in a party-like atmosphere, though it is noticeable many in the crowd are wearing masks.

Estanguet is three-time Olympic champion, three-time world champion and three-time European champion in single canoe slalom.

Paris, the host of the 2024 Games, is now in possession of the Olympic flag

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo waves the Olympic flag.

The Olympic flag has been passed on to the host of the next Summer Games, Paris.

The governor or Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, handed the flag to an Olympic representative, who gave it to Anne Hidalgo, the mayor or Paris. The Summer Olympics in Paris will take place in 2024.

But don’t worry: If you’re craving more Olympic content, you just have to wait six months until the start of the 2022 Winter Games, which kick off in February in Beijing.

Athletes hand out Olympic bouquets to the volunteers

The script was flipped for a moment at the Closing Ceremony, with some athletes presenting some of the Tokyo 2020 volunteers with the same bouquets of flowers given out to the medalists.

Athletes and country representatives in the stadium took a moment to honor the volunteers who have worked throughout this unprecedented Olympic Games held during a global pandemic.

During competitions, the volunteers have methodically cleared hurdles, swept sweat off basketball courts – as players ran to the other side of the court – and fetched water for umpires on baseball fields. 

However, the role of volunteers hasn’t been without its controversies.

While some 80,000 people were initially registered to volunteer at the Tokyo Games, 10,000 had quit before the Games began, with some citing inadequate coronavirus countermeasures, and as the pandemic shifted public opinion against the Olympics.

Most foreign volunteers were not allowed into Japan due to the global pandemic.

Why one expert says marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge is the "greatest of all time ... in ANY sport"

Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge, from Kenya, celebrates on the podium during the closing ceremony.

As part of the closing ceremony, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who won the men’s marathon earlier on Sunday, was awarded his gold medal in a podium presentation.

With around 12 kilometers of the race remaining, Kipchoge pulled clear of the lead pack to cross the line in a time of two hours, eight minutes and 38 seconds — more than a minute clear of the Netherlands’ Abdi Nageeye in second and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi in third. 

By winning Sunday’s race, the 36-year-old Kenyan became the third man to successfully defend an Olympic marathon title.

After his victory Kipchoge disarmingly remarked that he’d “wanted to test my fitness” and gauge how he was “feeling.”

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge crosses the finish line August 8 to win the marathon for the second Olympics in a row. Kipchoge, the world-record holder in the event, finished with a time of 2:08:38.

Others were less understated in assessing Kipchoge’s dominant performance.

“Eliud Kipchoge is the greatest of all time… in ANY sport,” performance coach and author Steve Magness wrote on Twitter. “His domination in a major sport in the modern era is unprecedented.”

You can read more on Kipchoge’s marathon win HERE.

There's a full ska band performing for the athletes

The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra performs during the closing ceremony.

The party is continuing at the Olympic Closing Ceremony with music from the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, a Japanese ska and jazz band.

Most of the stadium is empty thanks to coronavirus restrictions, but the band has a full audience of flag bearers and athletes on the field. There are also dancers moving through the crowd as the band plays several songs.

The Closing Ceremony marks the official end of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Weather foils Paris' plan to fly "biggest flag ever" from Eiffel Tower to celebrate upcoming 2024 Games

Paris will host the next Summer Olympics, but weather conditions have thwarted plans to fly the “biggest flag” ever from the Eiffel Tower to help mark the moment the French capital takes on responsibility for the Summer Games in three years as Tokyo 2020 comes to an end.

“We want to start with a world record. It’s the biggest flag ever raised,” Paris Games chief Tony Estanguet told reporters on Friday. “It’s more or less the equivalent of a football field.”

However, just before Tokyo 2020’s closing ceremony got underway, Paris 2024 organizers released a statement saying “sadly the weather conditions today mean that we will not be able to proceed with our plan to raise the flag on the Eiffel Tower safely.”

According to MeteoFrance’s weather station it’s currently 19°C, or about 66°F, with cloudy skies and winds around 20km/h, or about 12mph, in the French capital.

“Rain is nearby and Paris is expected to have scattered showers move through the area off and on through the afternoon,” said MeteoFrance.

“Despite this, TV viewers around the world will be able to discover our ambition thanks to images filmed during a test conducted on 8 June,” added Paris 2024 organizers in its statement.

“The celebration will still be brought to the Trocadéro by the medal-winning athletes from Tokyo and the Woodkid concert.

“For all those watching on screen, they will enjoy a spectacular experience in the heart of Paris, as it prepares to offer an extraordinary playground for the athletes, sport and the Games.”

Volunteers remain the heartbeat of the Olympic Games

Volunteers are seen during the closing ceremony in Tokyo on August 8, 2021.

Tokyo 2020 volunteers dressed in their blue uniforms have been a signature presence at these Games. 

In the buildup to the Games and during competitions, volunteers of all age groups have been instrumental in helping staff operate Olympic facilities and venues, and assisting journalists, officials, spectators and athletes. 

During competitions, they’ve methodically cleared hurdles, swept sweat off basketball courts as players ran to the other side of the court, and fetched water for umpires on baseball fields. 

Amid the ban on spectators, many have even had front-row seats and an exclusive view of the Games. 

They are bringing joy yet again in this Closing Ceremony. Having enthusiastically waved the athletes into the stadium, they are keeping the energy high by dancing to the playlist of party songs blaring out around the stadium.

However, the role hasn’t been without its controversies. While some 80,000 people were initially registered to volunteer at the Tokyo Games, 10,000 had quit before the Games began, with some citing inadequate coronavirus countermeasures, and as the pandemic shifted public opinion against the Games.

Most foreign volunteers were not allowed into Japan due to the global pandemic.

There's a party atmosphere in the stadium as athletes dance their way inside

Australia's athletes celebrate during the closing ceremony.

Now it’s time for those athletes left in Tokyo to make their way into the stadium.

There is no particular order to this, with teams streaming in from all four corners to the beat of party songs.

After spending weeks in their own separate bubbles, there is plenty of mingling and boogying on the stage as athletes take a shared sigh of relief after an Olympic Games like no other.

Despite all the issues leading up to Tokyo 2020 — which had been delayed a full year because of the Covid-19 pandemic — the Games have been a success and the athletes are celebrating that now.

Spare a thought for commentators around the world though: the random nature of the athletes’ arrival and the presence of face masks must be making this a tricky scenario to call.

Flag bearers enter the stadium to kick off the Closing Ceremony

Flag bearers enter the stadium.

The flag bearer of every country is making their way into the center of the stadium, forming a circle of color.

Unlike the Opening Ceremony, all the country’s come in together, which speeds up proceedings.

With the majority of athletes required to leave Tokyo 2020 within two days of the end of their competition, some countries don’t have representatives left in Japan so have leaned on volunteers to fly their flag — a vexillologist’s dream.

The Olympics cost "lives and livelihoods," say protesters in Tokyo

A banner with the message "Olympics kill the poor" is seen during a protest outside the National Stadium in Tokyo, before the closing ceremony on August 8, 2021.

Dozens of anti-Olympic protesters gathered nearby the New National Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday ahead of the closing ceremony for the Tokyo Games.

Holding banners saying “cancel the Olympics” and “the Olympics kill the poor,” the protesters were blocked by dozens of police from entering the road leading toward the stadium.

“The Paralympics are scheduled to go on after the Olympics, and we are against that, and the Olympics scheduled in Paris and Los Angeles,” Jun Ouenoki, one of the protest organizers, told CNN.

“The Olympics is costing lives and livelihoods — we should be funneling resources toward tackling the worsening Covid-19 emergency in Tokyo and Japan, instead of directing so much human power into putting on this superficial show,” added Ouenoki,

The Closing Ceremony has just started

A view shows the Olympic cauldron.

The Closing Ceremony has started in Tokyo, officially bringing the 2020 Summer Games to an end.

The Games, which had been delayed a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, were unlike any other Games in Olympic history.

As coronavirus cases rose in Japan, spectators were banned from Tokyo venues and rules around mask wearing, personal hygiene and social distancing were implemented in the Olympic Village.

Team USA finishes top of the medal table for third consecutive Olympic Games

USA's Skylar Diggins, left, puts a gold medal on teammate Sue Bird during the medal ceremony for the basketball competition on August 8.

Team USA has finished top of the medal table at Tokyo 2020, winning 113 medals in 28 different sports.

A total of 626 athletes competed for the US, clinching 39 gold, 41 silver and 33 bronze medals.

China and hosts Japan were closest to matching the US’ gold medal haul, winning 38 and 27 respectively.

Team USA’s performance at Tokyo ensured it finished top of the medal table – ranked on golds – tor the third consecutive Summer Olympic Games.

“We kept our team safe and we’re coming home successful,” said Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

“The Tokyo 2020 Games have been remarkable in so many ways and I’m filled with gratitude and pride.”

A record total of 94 different nations won a medal at Tokyo 2020, including Turkmenistan, San Marino and Burkina Faso – who all claimed their first Olympic medals.

Japan, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, New Zealand, Chinese Taipei and Turkey also set new records for most medals secured at a single Olympic Games.

"It doesn’t define me:" Olympic champion Harrington says success won't change her

Ireland's Kellie Anne Harrington celebrates on the podium following her win over Brazil's Beatriz Ferreira.

Ireland’s Kellie Anne Harrington won gold in the women’s light class after beating world champion Beatriz Ferreira from Brazil.

Harrington became only the second woman from Ireland to win Olympic boxing gold in the process.

“I have no words. The hard work, dedication, sacrifice that has gone into this,” an emotional Harrington said after winning.
“The lonely moments, the tears, you know it’s just like….my family knows, my coaches know, the coaches here know, it hasn’t even hit yet.”

She may now be able to call herself an Olympic champion but Harrington insisted that success would not change her.

She said she expected to be back working as a part-time cleaner at a hospital in Dublin when she returned home.

“At home, I’d say it will be a bit mental, but I will be going back to work in two or three weeks. I’ll be back at work, back doing my normal thing, that’s what keeps me grounded.

“I’ll get home, have a break, eat loads of pizza. I’m sure there will be a little party in work for me and I’ll be bringing my medal there.”

Harrington’s words proved prophetic on home being a “bit mental.”

According to Irish Times journalist Jade Wilson, who went to the north of Dublin, where the boxer’s family lives, there was ticker tape and joy as people congregated around a large screen set up in the street where Harrington grew up.

Harrington’s mother Yvonne doesn’t like to watch her daughter fight, according to the Irish Times. She was “out the back… in the garden” during the historic bout.

The Irish Times’ reporter also posted a video of the scenes on Portland Row.

Boxer Sudaporn Seesondee wants to buy "a present for my mother" after winning boxing bronze

Bronze medallist Sudaporn Seesondee of Thailand kisses her medal as she celebrates on the podium during the victory ceremony for the women's lightweight boxing final on August 8.

The Olympic Games have the ability to change lives and boxer Sudaporn Seesondee wants to do just that.

The Thai athlete won bronze in the women’s light class competition at Tokyo 2020 and plans to use her success to help others.

“I will buy a new house and a farm for my mother after the Olympic Games. A fruit farm. Mangos, coconuts,” she told reporters.
“It’s a present for my mother. She’s been working very hard to support the family. I want to do everything I can to repay her.
“I also want to buy medical tools and give it to hospitals in Thailand, about 500,000 baht ($15,000).”

The 29-year-old lost to eventual Olympic champion Kellie Anne Harrington in the semifinals on Thursday.

Serbia men's water polo team wins the final gold medal at Tokyo 2020

Nikola Jaksic celebrates during the water polo final between Greece and Serbia on Sunday.

Serbia won their second straight men’s Olympic water polo competition and the final gold medal of Tokyo 2020.

The Serbians defeated Greece 13-10 at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre with Dusan Mandic, Nikola Jaksic and Andrija Prlainovic each scoring a hat-trick.

The men’s water polo event is the most successful event for Serbia at the Olympic Games, delivering the nation four Olympic medals – two golds and two bronzes.

Hungary won the bronze medal match against Spain 9-5.   

Now that all the 339 sets of medals have been awarded, attention will turn to the closing ceremony in Tokyo.

After she "finagled a media credential," Megan Rapinoe got to watch partner Sue Bird win gold

Sue Bird is congratulated by her partner, football player Megan Rapinoe, after the United States' victory versus Japan in the women's basketball final on Sunday.

Sue Bird says she feels “lucky” that partner and Team USA soccer star Megan Rapinoe was able to watch her win basketball gold at Tokyo 2020.

The US women’s basketball team defeated host nation Japan 90-75 in the gold medal game. Team USA has now won seven consecutive Olympic golds dating back to 1996 as Bird and teammate Diana Taurasi picked up their fifth career Olympic golds.

“Obviously when your partner or your fiancee is also in the Olympics you would love to be able to go and support them, be around them, to give any kind of support possible,” Bird told reporters.

“Just went over and obviously told her I loved her and told her I was tired, and that was pretty much the extent of the conversation, and she told me she was happy and proud of me.”

On Thursday, Team USA defeated Australia to win the bronze medal in women’s soccer, with Rapinoe scoring twice in a 4-3 vi