International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach declared the 32nd Olympic Games in Tokyo closed on August 8. The closing ceremony was held in a nearly empty stadium, at the end of a 16-day event that was held under strict COVID restrictions. The festivities began in front of VIPs after the Japanese flag was raised at the 68,000-seat venue, where fans are barred to contain the virus spread.
This was the first Olympics ever to be postponed and took place a year late and in stadiums where spectators were largely banned by the Japanese authorities.
India at Tokyo 2020
India's campaign at the Olympic Games was as much a story of human resilience as of sporting excellence. The country got its first medal in track-and-field which also happened to be the first gold in 13 years, the first medal in hockey in 41 years, the first silver in weightlifting, the first boxing medal in nine years, the first woman with two Olympic medals, the most number of debutants ending up on the podium, and the most number of medals ever won, and it all happened in one single Games for India.
Manipuri weightlifter Mirabai Chanu on the first day itself lifted 202kg (87+115) to fetch a silver and put India on the medals tally. The days following her win did see a lull, as the shooting contingent couldn't make much of an impact. Excepting Saurabh Chaudhary who managed to make the finals and none could get on the podium.
But just when everyone thought the Indian campaign had hit the disaster note early, shuttler PV Sindhu put the country back on the tally by winning her bronze medal. She was looking to better the silver she won in the 2016 Games. While she couldn't do that, she did become the first Indian woman with two Olympic medals.
And then we had a barrage of excellent medal-winning performances- 23-year-old Lovlina Borgohain won bronze in boxing (69) kg, Ravi Kumar Dahiya became only the second Indian wrestler to clinch silver at the Games but the first to do so on debut. The Indian Men's Hockey Team ended a 41-year drought and won the bronze medal. Bajrang Punia gave us a bronze in wrestling and finally, we had star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra gives us our first gold at Tokyo 2020.
Not to forget the spectacular show that the Womens Hockey Team and golfer Aditi Ashok put up, each finishing fourth at their games.
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Protests against the Olympics
Around a hundred protesters carrying signs that read "Olympics kill the poor" and "We don't need the Olympics" jostled with police officers outside the stadium, although they were outnumbered by the crowd that lined the streets.
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Public anger over the pandemic response and a slow-to-start vaccine roll-out have badly damaged Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's standing. Public opinion polls showed most Japanese opposed holding the Games during the pandemic.
During the Games, would-be spectators came out in force, defying authorities and blistering heat 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.
Organisers appear to have prevented the Games from spiralling into a COVID-19 superspreader event, notably given that some 50,000 people came together amid the pandemic.
While the bubble 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, daily infections spiked to more than 5,000 for the first time in Tokyo, threatening to overwhelm its hospitals. On August 7, the city reported 4,566 COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, the number of new cases associated with Olympics 2020 has reached 404 after another 22 people were tested positive on Saturday.
As per a report from Reuters, the organizers stated that some nineteen athletes could not participate in the Games due to positive COVID tests. Three people related to the tournament also had been hospitalised due to the infections but have since recovered.
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Meanwhile, Britain's Olympic chief told AFP that staging of the Tokyo Games in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic has proved the doubters wrong while a former IOC executive claims it was a "miracle".
Hugh Robertson, chairman of the British Olympic Association (BOA), said, "The doubters have been proved wrong. The world has gone through an exceptionally difficult 18 months but athletes from across the globe came together and put on a memorable show."
"The Games have been held in the most challenging circumstances imaginable and the organisers have excelled," he added.
Michael Payne, former head of marketing at the IOC, said he believed these unusual Games had provided "optimism and hope for the future".
Payne, who in nearly two decades at the IOC was credited with transforming its finances through sponsorship, said he believed the IOC "held its nerve".
"It was an absolute miracle they happened," said Payne. "A miracle the Japanese pulled it off, a miracle the IOC got all the athletes here and stage a Games in the midst of a pandemic giving optimism and hope for the future."
Veteran IOC member Gunilla Lindberg, secretary-general of ANOC (Association of National Olympic Committees) and responsible for supporting the 206 national Olympic bodies, admitted that even two weeks before the Games she was unsure whether they would go ahead.
While it was not the first time an Olympics have been affected by health issues -- organisers at Rio 2016 grappled with the Zika virus, for example -- Lindberg said this "was worse than anything" other Games had had to face.
"There were difficult preparations and nobody knew I would say even two weeks before the Games if it would happen," the Swede, who has worked on 26 Summer and Winter Games, told AFP.
Payne says it is debatable whether this is the biggest crisis the IOC has faced in its long history, citing the financial problems the movement experienced in the 1980s, but said: "You look today, and these Games, in spite of the pandemic, have been incredibly successful. You've seen incredible sport, you've seen new sports (sport climbing, skateboarding to name two) come in to a programme that have been a big hit and the athlete performances have been better than you could have hoped for."
Although, Payne regrets there were no spectators -- "the Japanese people were the biggest losers" -- because of what he maintained were largely political reasons.
But both Lindberg and Payne believe the Games have proved popular with the Japanese.
"The moment they started winning gold medals, the TV ratings went off the charts," Payne said. "The Japanese embraced the Games in their living rooms.
The official twitter account of The Tokyo Organising Committee for the Olympics and Paralympics tweeted in anticipation of the next event scheduled for Paris.(With inputs from agencies)