Closing Ceremony Highlights: Tokyo Fetes Olympic Athletes With Music and Spectacle


The Olympic flame was extinguished at the end of the closing ceremony.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

TOKYO — A most uncommon Olympics ended with a becoming closing ceremony: the standard speeches, performances, parades and tributes performed in entrance of tens of 1000’s of empty seats.

For the previous two-plus weeks, the athletes carried out, usually on the prime of their video games, and information and hearts had been damaged. And on tv around the globe, it could not have seemed so uncommon.

But on the bottom there was an simple feeling of absence. An absence of cheering followers within the seats, an absence of oldsters embracing their medal-winning youngsters, an absence of the thrill that takes over Olympic cities, which makes taxi drivers, resort clerks and different residents need to eagerly discuss handball or desk tennis with one another or a customer from one other nation.

Save the masks on the individuals, the closing ceremony largely prevented the coronavirus pandemic. I.O.C. President Thomas Bach did laud the athletes for offering “hope” throughout darkish instances.

But for essentially the most half, the acquainted components performed out as if nothing was totally different. Flags had been raised and lowered, anthems had been sung, speeches had been made and the flame was doused with everybody enjoying their components as if nothing had been mistaken, with the Olympic motion or the world.

The leisure included the acquainted — dancers and jugglers. It included the consultant — drumming on an enormous taiko. And it had the surprising — a ska band. For pandemic-related causes many segments which may usually have concerned scores of costumed cavorters within the stadium had been proven on video.

When the Olympic cauldron was extinguished, the organizers rapidly moved to a spotlight reel for the Paralympics, which start on Aug. 24, and some fireworks.

As standard, there was a section dedicated to the following Olympics host. But this yr, the video peek at Paris 2024 supplied not solely a way of pleasure concerning the subsequent Games on the horizon. It additionally speculated that possibly, simply possibly, there’ll quickly be a Games that might be about operating and leaping moderately than testing and quarantining.

Love Rina Sawayama and Elton John singing “Chosen Family” Read more about Rina here.

Four years in the past, the Rio Games ended with a dance get together on the ground of the stadium that went on for some time after the cameras turned off. Now, individuals are submitting out rapidly to somber music like the tip credit of a bittersweet flick.

Arigato, thanks, says the enormous display. The athletes stroll off in a straggling, haphazard finish to one of many strangest Olympics of the fashionable period.

The flame is extinguished with prayerful motions for these not with us, an allusion, certainly, to the toll of this pandemic.

“Passing on a legacy to future generations” is the theme of this musical quantity. Japan is a shrinking and getting old nation by which the federal government has not been capable of adequately persuade girls to lift the fertility price.

The applause to thank the volunteers was rather more hearty than the applause for Bach’s line: “We did it — together!”

“We did it,” Bach mentioned. In this pandemic period, that’s an accomplishment.

Thomas Bach during his closing ceremony speech.
Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

In the run-up to and all through the Games, organizers repeatedly touted the Games as “safe and secure,” and described athletes and others throughout the Olympic bubble because the “most tested community almost anywhere in the world.” Thomas Bach echoed that sentiment on the closing ceremony, making reference to the coronavirus pandemic and saying that the athletes gave folks hope.

All advised, 436 people associated to the Olympics — practically two-thirds of whom had been residents of Japan — examined constructive for the virus since early July. According to the Tokyo organizing committee, solely three of the Olympics-related sufferers ended up within the hospital, and none of them wanted intensive care and have already been launched.

But because the Games opened on July 23, day by day instances outdoors the bubble in Tokyo have greater than tripled. The variety of folks requiring ventilators has began to tax the town’s medical system. Some specialists have mentioned that by internet hosting the Games, the organizers tacitly gave most people the impression that issues had been normalizing and that it was acceptable to exit and interact in behaviors which may have led to the rise in infections, notably because the vaccine rollout in Japan has been a lot slower than in different prosperous nations.

Thomas Bach refers back to the pandemic however tells the athletes that they gave tens of millions hope. He additionally thanks the Japanese folks, a majority of whom didn’t need the Olympics held right here.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympic committee, giving because of everybody who helped make the Olympics a hit and reminding everybody that Tokyo nonetheless has its work reduce out for it: the Paralympics is subsequent.

During the opening ceremonies, there was no signal language interpreter projected on the jumbotrons. After a web-based backlash, this time there are interpreters whereas each Seiko Hashimoto and Thomas Bach have spoken.

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

From taiko drumming and Harajuku avenue style to J-pop hits and Ainu dance, the closing ceremony included Japanese cultural touchstones that had been virtually solely lacking from the opening ceremony.

In some methods, this celebration of Japan, on the ultimate day of the Olympics, additionally marked what was missing from these Games: the intersection of caprice and solemnity that makes Tokyo so particular.

Japan has a knack of taking traditions from outdoors and making them its personal, whether or not it’s baseball or baked items. Add to that historical customs that thrived on an island chain that stored itself secluded for hundreds of years.

Athletes and different members of Olympic squads had been stored from Tokyo for concern of infecting a metropolis grappling with report coronavirus instances. Fair sufficient. At least with the closing ceremony, they bought a touch, “chotto,” as we are saying in Japanese, of Tokyo’s magic.

In the times when Juan Antonio Samaranch was president of the Olympic Committee, tea-leaf readers would intently parse his feedback: If he particularly referred to as a Games the “best ever,” it meant he favored it. If he merely mentioned it was “a great Games” or somesuch, he was dissatisfied. Here’s Thomas Bach to weigh in on a most uncommon Games certainly.

The moment of remembrance was commemorated by a dancer and a taiko drummer.
Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

The second of remembrance within the closing ceremony was commemorated by a dancer and a taiko drummer moderately than the extra typical second of silence. During the opening ceremony, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, particularly honored athletes who had died in earlier Olympics, together with the Israeli athletes killed throughout a terrorist assault on the Munich Games in 1972.

A pointed omission within the closing second was any point out of the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose 76th anniversaries handed this week with none point out by the Olympic organizers. Civic leaders and survivors had appealed to Bach to watch a second of silence on Aug. 6, the date of the U.S. dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. But the I.O.C. declined to take action, saying that it will not single out any explicit nation however would provide a second of silence throughout the closing ceremony to cowl all previous tragedies.

Survivors had been notably galled by this choice provided that Bach had visited Hiroshima earlier than the Games.

“At the Olympic Games, a festival for peace, there should be no objection for everybody involved to have a silent prayer for the many lives lost by the atomic bomb and the victims of war,” mentioned Toshiyuki Mamiki, performing chairman of the Japan Confederation of Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Sufferers Organization.

“President Bach took the trouble to visit the atomic bombed area of Hiroshima and saw the museum, to realize the disastrous consequences of nuclear weapons. As someone who has seen Hiroshima, I believe the least that can be done is to in some shape or form, acknowledge to the world what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Every closing ceremony additionally seems forward, to the following Games in 4, or on this case three years.

After a wholesome dose of Japanese music and dance, Paris was given the ground for 10 minutes or so. Because bringing a number of performers from Paris to Tokyo would have been a frightening prospect, the presentation relied virtually solely on movie — an uncommon transfer for the closing ceremony.

First got here movies with the acquainted romantic sights and rooftops of the town which have helped promote it as a web site for honeymoons, faculty journeys and main sporting occasions for generations.

France has by no means been afraid to make use of the Eiffel Tower for advertising and marketing functions, and the present ended with a section from the famed monument with a cheering crowd — packed uncomfortably shut, maybe — on the Champs de Mars.

And a jet flyover and break dancing, which can debut as a sport on the Paris Games.

The Olympics athletes who needed to return residence early from Tokyo are serving to with the Olympics handover.

France is certainly looking for the youth vote with this video.

If I had been youthful it will be a life purpose to play a saxophone in house.

Ask our good friend Dodai Stewart — it’s never too late!

The flute mutes the martial, rousing high quality of La Marseillaise.

I suppose Super Mario is not going to be returning handy over the Olympic flag. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared in Rio de Janeiro dressed because the online game character to just accept the flag again in 2016.

That actually was the best moment of the 2016 closing ceremony for me.

It was. And a wonderful instance of one of many icons of Japanese mushy energy that had been puzzlingly absent from the opening ceremony.

Tomotaka Okamoto, a soprano who sung the Olympic anthem, has his wonderful hair within the gray purplish colour that may be very common in Harajuku salons lately. I feel they name it “ash.”

Yuriko Koike, the Tokyo governor who occurs to talk English and Arabic, is carrying a standard kimono.

Obon isn’t a tragic vacation. There’s a component of celebration within the festivals that occur all throughout Japan at the moment of yr, however watching the Obon dance on this empty stadium is a stark reminder of the losses that the world has skilled over the previous yr.

The Canadians are gamely making an attempt to copy the bon odori strikes.

Modern enka, Japanese ballad music, was one of many soundtracks of the go-go 1980s, when Japan was creating into the world’s second-largest economic system.

We’re transferring into some conventional dance. A nod to the Japanese pageant of Obon, which is held annually in late summer season to honor the spirits of the lifeless.

Obon begins on Friday.

In a traditional yr, folks could be heading residence round this time to spend time with their households.

The Akito bon odori dance jogs my memory of my childhood visits to my grandmother and going to an area park for some dancing, water crammed balloons and making an attempt to seize a goldfish in a little bit plastic pool

An interpretive dance representing the Ainu folks takes heart stage. The Ainu are Japan’s indigenous folks and confronted centuries of persecution. Only a handful of people that converse an Ainu language are left on the planet.

Credit…Alexandra Garcia/The New York Times

If you hit the taiko mistaken you’ll be able to break your arm. Maybe it needs to be a brand new Olympic sport.

OK, taiko was what was criminally lacking from the opening ceremonies. There is nothing like these huge drums to get your blood transferring.

A volunteer cleaning a bench during one of the karate events.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

At each Olympics, 1000’s of volunteers function the glue that maintain the Games collectively, driving official autos, fetching water, carrying Olympic medals. This time in Tokyo, they had been additionally among the many most seen and plentiful presence within the venues that had been shorn of spectators.

Their duties had been myriad: wiping perspiration from desk tennis tables, fetching soccer balls kicked over the purpose into empty stadium seats, sweeping the gymnasium ground throughout basketball video games.

Sumika Yoneda, 22, who was answerable for main press photographers into the so-called moat of the National Stadium for athletics occasions, was shocked by how briskly the photographers would run to get an image when an athlete fell on the observe. “It was so surprising to me at first, thinking about the athletes’ feelings,” mentioned Yoneda, who was on obligation on the closing ceremony. “That’s not the first thing I would do, but I guess that’s the job of a photographer.”

Journalists normally appeared to shock the sensibilities of the volunteers. Journalists “are very strong minded,” mentioned Rachel Leng, 31. They “are very creative with trying to sneak into the media seats even if they don’t have the proper ticket — they’ll try to hide their badges, or some will come in once and then leave and give their credential to a colleague that doesn’t have the right to be in the space and try to pass it off as themselves, it’s been a mess!”

Now a tribute to the 1000’s of Olympic volunteers. actually applicable given how exhausting they work, usually at thankless duties. On the opposite hand, there may be the thorny query of why a corporation just like the I.O.C., which is swimming in tv cash, depends on unpaid labor in any respect.

Whenever an agenda says “the next protocol element is …” you realize you will not be in for riveting stuff. It seems we’re going to be launched to some new members of the athletes’ fee of the I.O.C.

We’ll see in about 13 hours, however that is typically a second when broadcasters say, “And we’ll be right back.”

One of the loveliest moments of the Olympics was when marathon silver medalist Abdi Nageeye waved his good friend and bronze medalist Bashir Abdi to the end line.

As the medalists for the boys’s and girls’s marathons are honored, it’s value noting that a number of international locations scored their first medals at these Games. The Philippines gained its first gold medal, courtesy of Hidilyn Diaz in women’s weight lifting. San Marino gained not solely its first but in addition its second medal, coming into the historical past books because the smallest nation to attain a podium end. Bermuda struck gold within the girls’s triathlon, making it the smallest nation to win gold within the Summer Games.

Burkina Faso gained its first medal, bronze in males’s triple bounce. Turkmenistan additionally gained its first medal, silver in girls’s weight lifting.

“It’s unbelievable,” Diaz, the Philippine lifter, mentioned after her shock triumph within the 55 kilogram weight lifting division. “I never thought this would happen today.”

Kenya, like different components of Africa and Asia, is affected by a devastating wave of coronavirus instances. One wonders what a few of these athletes will face after they return residence.

Molly Seidel was a shock medalist to some. She seems suitably thrilled.

The prime marathon finishers historically get their medals awarded as a part of the closing ceremony. In the previous it has simply been the boys’s marathon, however the girls get to be a part of the present as effectively this yr.

So right here’s to Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands, Bashir Abdi of Belgium. And Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei of Kenya and Molly Seidel of the United States.

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Anthem time! All rise for Greece, the founding father of the Games, method again in 776 B.C. (and once more in 1896 A.D.).

It’s exhausting to not really feel wistful that many of the Olympic guests didn’t get to see this aspect of Tokyo in actual life. And the 1000’s of people that needed to be right here to see it, however couldn’t.

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Olympics Stadium is only a quick stroll from Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, an enormous inexperienced house within the metropolis heart well-known for its folks watching alternatives. Despite the pandemic and the brutal summer season warmth, it has been full with its standard characters — e.g. a rockabilly dance troupe that seems each weekend — and a gradual stream of Tokyoites engaged in typical park actions from jogging and picnicking to yoga and impromptu musical performances.

But coronavirus restrictions have stopped athletes from visiting the park or any of the town’s different well-known vacationer locations. To make up for the missed alternative, organizers have created a pretend park contained in the stadium, full with pretend grass, soothing gentle results and buskers. The organizers mentioned that the setup is meant to offer athletes a style of the town that they by no means bought to expertise: “Just like a Sunday afternoon at a park in Tokyo.”

Not fairly: park goers had been wearing pastel ponchos and a ska band blasted out a brassy soundtrack as athletes milled across the discipline taking selfies. But for many of the individuals on this yr’s Olympics, this ersatz park would be the closest they get to experiencing the actual factor. The guidelines require they head residence 48 hours after their occasion ends, and there are not any alternatives for tourism.

There have been a handful of exceptions, although: two Georgian athletes had their credentials revoked after Japanese media reported that that they had been seen taking images at Tokyo Tower. They had already completed their occasion.

Hearing Milet sing “Hymne à l’amour” is making me lengthy to get again to a small Tokyo jazz bar with some stay music.

Credit…Alexandra Garcia/The New York Times

A reminder that Japan can also be a syrupy ballad capital. With a correct again beat.

Hannah — certainly. And they love previous jazz requirements sung in a torchy method.

Motoko, completely true. What makes Tokyo so particular is the serendipity of the streets, one second all neon and noise, the following second hushed and reverential at a shrine or completely formed topiary.

Even via the pandemic, Tokyo has been unimaginable. It’s a disgrace it wasn’t given extra of a possibility to share itself with the world.

That transient interlude from DJ Matsunaga was superior. He apparently gained the world’s greatest DJ competitors in London in 2019.

And an important reminder of how common turntablism is in Japan (like so many international locations). I hope the French organizers are taking cues from this…



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