JAPAN will douse its more than year-old Olympic flame on Sunday, closing out a Tokyo Games that were upended by the pandemic and transformed by the drama of politics, dazzling sport and deeply personal turmoil.
For the host nation, the Olympics fell short of the global triumph and financial blockbuster it once sought.
Still, organisers appear to have prevented the Games from spiralling into a COVID-19 superspreader event, a remarkable 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.
“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 told committee members hours before the ceremony.
While opinion polls showed most Japanese opposed the 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.
Their numbers appeared to be bolstered by enthusiasm over Japan’s medal haul.
China and the United States were tied for the top of the tally with 38 golds as of midday on Sunday, with 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 pm.
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