Japan has passed the Olympic torch to France as the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games drew to a close today – with the world now looking forward to the 2024 sporting spectacular in Paris.
Emmanuel Macron led cheering crowds in Paris, wishing viewers from around the world ‘bonjour’ from the top of the Eiffel Tower while mayor Anne Hidalgo was in Tokyo to receive the Olympic flag from organiser Thomas Bach.
Scenes in the two cities could not have been more contrasting – in Tokyo, light shows and made-for-TV graphics largely replaced mass choregraphed dance routines in a spectator-less stadium due to virus restrictions, while in France thousands of people thronged into a fan zone (though did have to present a Covid certificate to get in).
Paris organisers have promised to deliver a ‘games for the people’, banking on the fact that the pandemic – which reduced Tokyo’s sporting spectacular to a shadow of what it could have been – will be well under control by then.
Japan has plenty to celebrate following the Games, with athletes bringing home a record medal haul and finishing third in the table, while a Covid-secure bubble meant to protect competitors and their coaches largely holding.
But elsewhere protections fell apart, with crowds who gathered outside venues closed by Covid rules to catch a sneak peek of events helping to drive cases in the country to all-time highs.
The government has also been left facing a $15billion bill – double what was originally budgeted – with no tourist bounce to help offset it.
Jets streaming the colours of the tricolor flag streak past the Eiffel Tower as Japan hands over to France with the delayed 2020 Olympics drawing to a close with Paris set to host in 2024
Emmanuel Macron appeared atop the Eiffel Tower during the handover segment, wishing international viewers ‘bonjour’ as his country prepares to welcome the world for the 2024 Games
French Olympic medalist Sara Balzer walks through the crowd during the Olympic Games handover ceremony in Paris
Fans wave French flags and cheer in the Olympics fan zone at Trocadero Gardens in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris as the city enters final preparations for the 2024 Games
French Olympic heavyweight bronze medallist and mixed team gold medallist in Judoka, Teddy Riner, leads crowds in Paris
Former French athletes Philippe Candeloro (2L), Marie-Jo Perec (3L), Laura Flessel (4L), Alain Calmat (R) and President of OCOG Paris 2024 Tony Estanguet (3R) cheer at the handover ceremony for the 2024 Paris games
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, waves the Olympic flag for her city as the Tokyo Games drew to a close with a passing of the torch to France, the host for 2024
President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach speaks during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, right, Committee’s President Thomas Bach, center, and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, left, walk off the stage during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Games
The Tokyo Olympic flame is extinguished as part of the closing ceremony of the 2020 Games
Tokyo’s Olympic cauldron closes itself as the flame is extinguished on Japan’s Covid-hit Games
Fireworks explode over the main Olympic stadium in Tokyo, Japan, as the Covid-delayed Games draws to a close and all eyes turn towards 2024 hosts Paris
Closing ceremony of the Covid-delayed Tokyo Olympics is underway, with fireworks lighting up the sky over the Japanese capital as sporting showpiece reaches the finish line
Japan’s athletes have shone at the sporting showpiece, bringing home a record medal haul with the country finishing third in the medal table in its best-ever showing
Made-for-TV graphics and light shows largely replaced large choreographed routines that have become the hallmark of Olympic ceremonies in the past
Fireworks explode over the Olympic stadium in Tokyo as the Covid-delayed Games come to a close on Sunday
A performer plays a traditional Japanese Taiko drum during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium
Japanese flag-bearers carry their country’s emblem into the closing ceremony in Tokyo
Great Britain’s Laura Kenny with the Union Jack flag during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Team USA’s flag-bearer arrives in the main Olympic stadium to join the ceremony with plenty to celebrate as the country topped the medal table with 39 golds and 113 overall
Australia’s flag is carried into the main stadium with the country having performed well at the Games, finishing 6th in the table in a much-improved performance compared to previous years
Dancers perform in a brightly-lit Tokyo Olympic stadium during the closing ceremony of the delayed 2020 Games
Britain’s delegation arrive during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo
Athletes from the United States take a selfie during the closing ceremony as country celebrates topping the medal table
Members of the Polish delegation take pictures as they attend the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo
Lights representing athletes from around the world blend together during the closing ceremony of the Olympics
Flagbearers of the competing nations gather in Tokyo’s main Olympic stadium as the closing ceremony gets started
Japan’s emperor Naruhito was among just a handful of VIPs allowed into the main stadium to watch the closing ceremony
The event has deeply divided Japanese into pro and anti-Games camps, with that division expected to be visible at the closing ceremony – as athletes celebrate as guests of honour while the stands sit empty due to Covid restrictions on crowds.
Just a few dozen VIPs and members of the media will be present to watch the proceedings in person with the rest of the country forced to watch at home, as happened with the somewhat sombre opening ceremony.
A sign of those divisions was evident near the stadium as protesters gathered ahead of the ceremony, with police holing them back.
For the host nation, the Olympics fell short of the global triumph and financial blockbuster it once sought – aiming to showcase the country’s recovery from the devastating 2011 tsunami and earthquake.
Instead it was forced to delay and radically alter plans in the wake of Covid, which more than doubled the initial estimate of the bill.
Still, organisers appear to have prevented the Games from spiralling into a COVID-19 superspreader event, an undeniable achievement given that some 50,000 people came together amid the pandemic.
While the bubble – the set of venues and hotels to which Olympic visitors were largely confined – appeared to hold, elsewhere some things fell apart.
Fuelled by the Delta variant of the virus, daily infections spiked to more than 5,000 for the first time in Tokyo, threatening to overwhelm its hospitals.
Normally one of the world’s most electric cities, Tokyo is under a state of emergency, depriving it of the manic buzz of an Olympic host or the fervent crowds of its last Olympics in 1964.
Public anger over the pandemic response and a slow-to-start vaccine roll-out have badly damaged Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s standing. Public opinion polls showed most Japanese opposed holding the Games during the pandemic.
Topless Pacific islands athletes arrive in the stadium ahead of the closing ceremony taking place
A member of Team Netherlands during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
A member of Team Canada during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Russian Olympic Committee’s athletes attend the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics
Belarus athletes, minus sprinter Krystsina Tsikhanouskaya who fled the Games to Poland after feeling her safety was in danger gather in the Olympic stadium
Great Britain’s Laura Kenny with the Union Jack flag during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
lag bearers participate in the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan
Athletes delegations pose with their national flag as they enter during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Representatives carry participating nations’ flags during the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Tokyo
Members of Team Mexico during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium
Russian Olympic Committee delegation walk in during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium
Members of Team Bulgaria during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
A Japanese ska band performs during the closing ceremony of the Covid-delayed 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo
Japanese sopranista Tomotaka Okamoto performs during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Performers representing the kinds of group activities usually seen in parks around Japan take part in the closing ceremony
A BMX rider takes part in the closing ceremony of the delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on Sunday
Performers take part in the 2020 closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Sunday
Performers take part in the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
The Athletes of the competing nations enter the stadium during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Athletes enter the stadium during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics
The Olympic flag is carried during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Flags are raised in Tokyo’s main Olympic ceremony during the closing ceremony
IAAF President, Sebastian Coe carries medals for the Marathon medal ceremonies during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Gold medallist Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, on the podium with silver medallist Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, and bronze medallist Molly Seidel of the United States, receives her gold medal from IOC President Thomas Bach
Second-placed Netherlands’ Abdi Nageeye, first-placed Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi celebrate on the podium during the victory ceremony of the men’s marathon event as part of the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games
People take photographs of fireworks during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Would-be spectators still came out in force, defying authorities to peek in from overpasses as they tried to catch a glimpse of outdoor events such as the triathlon or new sports such as skateboarding.
“We can already now say with confidence that we have experienced a very successful Olympic Games considering all the uncertainties we had the last two years,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said before the ceremony.
Japan’s record medal haul also helped take out some of the sting for organisers.
The United States was at the top of the tally with 39 gold medals as of Sunday afternoon, with China at 38 and Japan at 27.
Thirteen golds were up for grabs on Sunday before the closing ceremony, including in the men’s marathon, won by Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge and women’s basketball, which went to the United States.
Japan is due to hand over the Olympic baton to the next host city, Paris, at a ceremony that starts at 8:00 p.m. JST (1100 GMT).
“To the Japanese people, thank you, you achieved what many thought was impossible,” Australia’s Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman told a news conference.
After a year’s delay and often against the backdrop of cavernous, nearly empty venues, the Games themselves provided plenty of high drama.
Fireworks light up the sky over the Olympic Stadium during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,
Fireworks explode over the main stadium of the Tokyo Olympics as the delayed 2020 Games draws to a close
Fireworks are pictured exploding over the main Olympic stadium in Tokyo as the Games draw to a close
A Japanese ska band performs during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday
Performers strike yoga poses inside Tokyo’s Olympic stadium during the closing ceremony of the delayed 2020 Games
Artists perform during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo
Performers take part in the closing ceremony on the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan
Dancers perform as athletes watch during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics
Team members watch per during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
The United States athletes walk in during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics
Athletes gather during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games closing ceremony
Atlethes of the competing nations attend the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Team members watch performers during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Members of Team Great Britain during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Athletes from the United States of American enter the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the delayed 2020 Games
The Russian Olympic Committee athletes pose for a photo during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium
Canada athletes pose for a photo during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics
Athletes from Team Netherlands enjoy the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Olympic teams gather on the Olympic Stadium during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Members of Team Australia celebrate during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Athletes from South Korea’s delegation wave their national flag as they parade during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Artists perform during the closing ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics
Performers on BMX bikes during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Police hold back demonstrators close to Tokyo’s main Olympic stadium as the closing ceremony gets underway
Police clash with demonstrators close to the Tokyo Olympic stadium amid widespread anger within the country that the event was allowed to go ahead
Protesters against the Olympic Games demonstrate outside the Olympic Stadium
Japan has been deeply divided over the Games, with some turning out to sneak peeks of the events outside closed arenas while other protest against the sporting showpiece
That culminated with the defection of Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who, in a moment more reminiscent of the Cold War, refused to board a flight home after she was taken to the airport against her wishes.
She has since sought refugee status in Poland.
U.S. superstar gymnast Simone Biles shocked the world when she pulled out of five of her six events, including abruptly abandoning the women’s team final after attempting just one vault, citing concerns for her mental and physical health.
The 24-year-old spoke with candour about struggling to deal with the weight of expectation placed on her and made the world aware of the “twisties”, a type of mental block that prevents gymnasts from performing their gravity-defying skills.
Biles ultimately came back to win the bronze on the balance beam in the final event of the women’s gymnastics programme, a moment of triumph that crystallised her transformation from Olympic champion to advocate for mental health.
In athletics, Italy provided a different kind of shock with their amazing run.
Their victories included a stunning gold in the men’s sprint relay, taking their athletics gold tally to five.
In swimming, the United States were without 23-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps for the first time since the Atlanta Games in 1996, and while their gold count slipped, they still ended the meet on top of the medal table with 30.
But they were pushed close by the Australian team who achieved their best ever haul of nine golds and 21 medals overall, eight of their titles won by their astonishing women’s team.
As the Games wind up, Japan will now be left to count the cost.
The bill for the Olympics and Paralympics is expected to be 1.64 trillion yen ($15 billion), 22% higher than it was before the Games were delayed in 2020, and twice as much as the 800 billion yen estimate Tokyo submitted in its host bid.
The bill, which will have to be fully paid after the Games end, is most likely to be settled by the Tokyo government and the central government.