17 days. 33 sports. 399 medal events. One Games.
After 5 years of preparation, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have officially come to a close after a closing ceremony united by emotion. It’s the final celebration for athletes before they head home, or as they sat in their home countries watching it from a screen due to Covid-19 protocols.
We take you through the key moments of the Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony as we farewell one of the most unforgettable games, and welcome, and prepare for Paris 2024.
‘World We Share’
That was the theme for this year’s closing ceremony.
One thing that unites the world like nothing else is sport – and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was a fine display of that sentiment.
Over 17 days, athletes around the world from a variety of backgrounds went faster, higher and stronger together to bring joy to the world in a global health crisis.
A focus of Tokyo 2020 was diversity and inclusion, as seen in various instances in the games – such as a male and female flag bearer at the opening ceremony, or the inclusion of events to achieve gender equality. Tokyo also saw a Refugee team and the highest number of out LGBTQ+ athletes participate in the Games.
This will carry over to the Paralympics.
Although separated by a global pandemic, the world shared these memorable games together, with the closing ceremony calling us to remember that we all belong to one world.
Done the hard yards, time to party as one!
The closing ceremony began with a parade of the 206 competing nations’ flags, with one bearer per country involved in the march. For Australia, it was sailor and gold medalist Mat Belcher who had the honour.
Many of these bearers had been competing in events mere hours ago, as only the athletes who had competed recently were permitted to stay in Tokyo and attend the ceremony. This was unfortunate for Myanmar, Mauritius, Mauritania, Mozambique, Monaco, and the Maldives, as they had no athletes left in Tokyo due to Covid-19 protocols.
Once the flag bearers were in place, the athletes came out as one big, intertwined group, symbolizing the unity, communal and celebratory nature of the ceremony.
Many were dancing, and gleefully waving their nation’s flags. Some carried fellow athletes on their shoulders, while others had inflatable mascots, such as Australia and the Boxing Kangaroo. In true 2021 fashion, some were taking photos and uploading content on social media to keep their friends, family, and fans up to date.
With the athletes in place, the show began with a beautiful display of technology. Countries’ flags were projected onto the floor, where they melted to form one, representing the theme ‘World We Share.’
A cascade of light fell from the stadium’s roof, illuminating the athletes and symbolising the Olympic spirit. The light came together to form the Olympic rings – a familiar symbol of world unity that is needed in a time of distress.
A stroll in the park
The party continues as technicolour lights, upbeat brassy music, and energetic performers took over the stadium.
Athletes watched on from the grassy surrounding field, which was meant to emulate a Japanese park. The performers portrayed people going about their business in the parks that athletes couldn’t visit, so the Olympians could at least go home and say they witnessed park life.
People were dotted around the performance effort showing off modern Japanese street culture. Some of these activities on show were skateboarding, dj-ing, break dancing, acrobatics, yoga, bicycle riding, and soccer.
Many people associate Japan with older, more peaceful traditions, kimonos, cherry blossoms, and gorgeous traditional architecture, but this segment really highlighted the vibrancy of a modern Japanese city. However, tradition was not forgotten entirely, as some performers combined elements of classical dress in their modern clothes.
The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra provided the soundtrack, which the athletes could continue to dance to with ease. Singer Milet also joined for a song too.
At the end of the segment, a chorus of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy filled the stadium, which reflected the joy of the athletes, but the unity of the world at that present moment as millions tuned in to farewell Tokyo 2020.
We interrupt this program…
A victory ceremony briefly interrupted proceedings to acknowledge, the medalists of the Men’s and Women’s Marathons.
It was ladies first as Kenyans Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei, and American Molly Seidel received the last women’s event medals for Tokyo 2020. Jepchirchir and Kosgei claimed brought home gold and silver respectively for Kenya, while Seidel took out Bronze.
As for the men, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge put Tokyo’s final gold medal around his neck, while Dutchman Abdi Nageeye and Belgian Bashir Abdi received the final silver and bronze medals respectively.
With the final medals handed out, Tokyo was one step closer to concluding.
Thanking those behind the scenes
Three athletes – Japanese Fencer Yuki Ota, Italian Swimmer Federica Pellegrini, and Kenyan Rugby player Humphrey Kayange were welcomed into the IOC Athletes Commission.
Their first act as members of the commission was to thank volunteers on behalf of all 10,305 athletes who compete in Tokyo.
The six volunteers on stage were presented with bouquets similar to those medal winners won, while the other 70,970 were present in the stadium virtually and watching the ceremony unfold at home.
Culture to Culture
The next segment of the closing ceremony was centered around Japanese traditional culture and festivals from around the island.
This kicked off with some drumming live from the stadium while Aoi Yamada performed an interpretive dance about trees. The tree served as a reminder that they have stood to witness history over time and will continue to do so going forward.
Viewers were then taken on a journey around Japan via a pre-recorded video projected into the stadium. At each stop, a new dance native to the area shown was performed by people in traditional dress.
The first stop was the Ainu performed in Hokkaido, then the Ryukyu Eisa in Okinawa, then the Nishimonai Bon Odori in the Akita prefecture, and Gujo Odori dance from the Gifu prefecture.
This segment finished back at the Olympic Stadium where Japanese performers gave one final display of culture before the ceremony became all about France.
Lowering the Olympic flag
The Olympic Flag was lowered to a beautiful rendition of the Olympic Anthem from Tomotoka Okamoto.
Once removed from the pole, it was presented to the Mayor of Tokyo Koike Yuriko, to the IOC President Thomas Bach, to the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, representing the handover to Paris 2024.
At each step of the transition, each person waved the flag.
Paris now has the flag, now it has the attention of the global community, to make an exciting impression.
The national anthem of France, La Marseillaise was performed by the National Orchestra of France, conducted by Chloé Dufresne. This was part of a prerecorded video, where members of the orchestra were filmed all over Paris, giving fans a preview of the next hosting city.
From a theatre to the Seine, to cafés and parks the rousing rendition showed they were ready for the games to come their way.
French Astronaut, Thomas Pesquet played the last few notes of the anthem from the International Space Staton on the Saxophone.
The video presentation continued with BMX cyclists touring past iconic Parisian landmarks such as the Eiffel Tour, Grand Palais, and the Arc de Triomphe. Also in the video were breakdancers (as it is an Olympic sport in 2024).
It concluded at the Eiffel Tower, where crowds were gathering to celebrate the homecoming of French medallists as the aerobatics team flew overhead, and Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet waving to the crowd below.
The video concluded with ‘Thank you Tokyo! Merci Tokyo!’ and Paris 2024 accompanied by France’s tricolour flag and the Eiffel Tower.
… Arigato, and Sayonara Tokyo
The closing ceremony had time for one more performance to farewell Tokyo 2020.
On the floor galaxies swirled as children looked on in awe with telescopes. An older woman entered the stage playing a Maria-from-Sound-of-Music-type character. They begin to sing “Hoshi Meguri no Uta” which translates to ‘a stroll among the stars’.
They continued to dance among the constellations projected on the stadium floor, as the intensity of the music built in a touching, emotional way.
This lullaby put Tokyo 2020 to an everlasting sleep, as the Olympic flame began to die out with the music.
And like, the petals of the cauldron, and Tokyo 2020 was officially closed.