The Tokyo 2020 Games were declared closed by IOC chief Thomas Bach on Sunday, ending the “most challenging Olympic journey” after a year’s pandemic delay and threats of cancellation.
Bach called them “unprecedented Olympic Games” as he addressed the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium, which was bereft of fans as Japan battles to contain a record coronavirus outbreak.
“In these difficult times we are all living through, you give the world the most precious of gifts: hope,” the International Olympic Committee president told athletes at the ceremony.
“And now I have to mark the end of this most challenging Olympic journey to Tokyo: I declare the Games of the 32nd Olympiad closed,” he added.
It marked a low-key end to an extraordinary Olympics that have mostly played out in empty venues with only athletes, team officials and media present.
Athletes have lived in strict biosecure conditions with social distancing at the Olympic Village and instructions to wear masks unless eating, sleeping, training or competing.
On Sunday, the climax of the biggest sports event since the pandemic, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge won the men’s marathon and the USA edged China at the top of the medals table.
The United States scored victories in volleyball, track cycling and basketball to top the tally with 39 gold medals, just one ahead of China.
The Olympics were plagued by low Japanese support as they went ahead with Tokyo and other regions under a state of emergency and with infections multiplying to new highs.
But Japan’s record haul of 27 golds to finish third on the table has won hearts. Britain were fourth with 22 and the Russian Olympic Committee, the team for Russian athletes after their country was banned for systematic doping, were fifth with 20.