TOKYO (Dispatches) -Held under the specter of a pandemic and threats of cancellation, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games wound up on Sunday a success story that brought hope to the world.
International Olympic Chief Thomas Bach declared the Tokyo Games “unprecedented” and the “most challenging Olympic journey” as he addressed the near-empty 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium at the closing ceremony.
“In these difficult times we are all living through, you give the world the most precious of gifts: hope,” Bach told athletes attending the ceremony.
The next Summer Olympics is scheduled for Paris in 2024, but the Olympic flame will burn again in six months when Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Over the 16-day sports extravaganza in Tokyo, a total of 339 medal events were held across 33 sports with skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate making their debuts. A total of 94 different countries and regions claimed a medal at Tokyo, more than at any other Games.
After a late flourish, the United States topped the medal table just ahead of China, followed by Japan.
The U.S. topped the medal table with 39 golds, 41 silvers and 33 bronzes. Team China was in second with 38 gold, 32 silver and 18 bronze medals, followed by Japan with 27 gold, 14 silver and 17 bronze medals.
Japan’s PM Thanks People for Safe Olympics
Japan’s prime minister thanked people for helping the country safely hold the Olympics despite the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.
He noted the Games were delayed by a year and held under tight restrictions, but “I believe we were able to fulfill our responsibility as the host nation,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, thanking the people for their understanding and cooperation.
The 16-day Summer Olympics were played mostly without spectators. Athletes stayed in an isolation bubble, quickly donned masks off their field of play and had to leave Japan soon after their competitions ended.
But the Games were a testament to perseverance, and as Suga noted in praising Japanese athletes for the nation’s record 58 medals, “Some won medals and others didn’t, but all their performances were moving.”
Suga spoke about the Olympics at a ceremony in Nagasaki on Monday that marked the 76th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the Japanese city.
Suga has been criticized as forcing the Games on a Japanese public that didn’t want them to be held during the pandemic.
Japan has counted 1 million infections and more than 15,700 deaths from COVID-19, faring better than many countries, but the delta variant is causing many recent cases and accelerating the spread of the virus.