And just like that, the Tokyo Olympics are over.
It’s been one of the most uncertain, unprecedented and unlikely-to-go-ahead Games, possibly ever — but hard-working volunteers, determined organisers and resilient athletes have managed to put on an Olympics that gave the world hope after a pretty hopeless 18 months.
If you missed the closing ceremony, here are some of the key moments.
Aussies being Aussies
Not all of our athletes got to stay long enough to celebrate the closing ceremony with their teammates (if you haven’t seen the videos of balcony workouts and Zumba classes from Howard Springs yet, do yourself a favour) but the ones that were there looked like they had a good time.
The classic boxing kangaroo made an appearance, there was dancing, there were shoulder carries, and even with a mask in the way there were plenty of smiles.
The Australian flag was carried into the stadium by sailing gold medalist Mathew Belcher, the country’s most successful Australian sailor in Olympic history.
Another ‘how did they do that?!’ moment
There were a few of them in the opening ceremony, and Japanese organisers came through with another one to close the show.
A stunning light display made up of tiny beads of light hovered above the athletes and performers in the stadium, swirling to create an image of the Olympic rings in the sky.
Organisers say the beads represent “the athletes in the stadium, and everyone in the world who could not be at the venues but spent the past two weeks cheering on the athletes”.
Six lucky athletes get their medals in front of a real crowd
Most of the Tokyo 2020 medal ceremonies were conducted in front of a handful of fellow competitors and coaches, and pretty much no one else.
But for the men’s and women’s marathon medallists, they were presented with gold, silver and bronze in front of hundreds — the stands were still empty, but all their fellow closing ceremony athletes and performers were there to cheer them on.
Bashir Adbi of Belgium, Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands and Eliud Kipchoge were awarded bronze, silver and gold respectively, as were the USA’s Molly Seidel, Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei and fellow Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir.
A moment of remembrance
Traditional Japanese taiko drumming by Kensaky Sato and a solo dance performance by Aoi Yamada painted the perfect picture for the closing ceremony’s moment of remembrance, which formalised at the last Olympics in Rio.
Yamada’s costume was designed by Kumiko Iijima, and described like this:
“The costume design recalls trees of precious wood species which have stood witness to history. Even if the outer layer is no longer alive, the trunk continues to live on and strengthen its centuries-old connection to the earth and land in which its roots stretch deep.”
This section of the ceremony took us through multiple traditional dances from all over Japan, ending with the Tokyo Ondo which the athletes joined in on.
Powerful words from the IOC president
The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, reminded us that there were so many times these Games very nearly didn’t go ahead at all — but the hard work of so many made it happen.
“Nobody has ever organised (and) postponed Olympic Games before. Thank you to (Olympic Organising Committee) president, my dear fellow Olympian Hashimoto Seiko, and to all the dedicated people in the Organising Committee for your great partnership and your wonderful friendship.
“The saying is true for the solidarity demonstrated by everyone in our Olympic community. Our warm thanks go to the national Olympic committees, the international federations, our top partners, sponsors, and rights-holding broadcasters for their truly outstanding show of unity and support. We did it, like athletes, and for the athletes. We did it together.”
He also said the athletes showed the world a powerful example of solidarity, not only in their competing but in their time in the Olympic Village, and to the Japanese people for their sacrifices that allowed Tokyo 2020 to happen.
“In these difficult times you gave to the world the most precious of gifts — hope,” he said to the athletes.
“This gives us hope.This gives us faith in the future. The Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020 are the Olympic Games of hope, solidarity and peace. You, the best athletes of the world, could only make your Olympic dream come true because Japan prepared the stage for you to shine. You, the Japanese people, can be extremely proud of what you have achieved. On behalf of all the athletes, we say thank you, Tokyo. Thank you, Japan.”
France to look forward to
It’s only three years away, but after the joy that Tokyo 2020 brought to so many, there are stacks of people who are already counting down to Paris 2024.
We raced through the iconic city of Paris in a preview of what’s to come, before throwing to a party in the streets below the Eiffel Tower — featuring none other than some of France’s most recent Olympic medallists who had already arrived home.
The Patrouille de France even painted the sky red, white and blue in a stunning aerobatics display while we got a sneak preview of what to look forward to in just three years, from BMX to breakdancing.
There was even a snippet of a musical interlude courtesy of French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the International Space Station. Talk about out of this world.