Tokyo Olympics; Protesters gather before the closing ceremony

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Protesters gathered in front of the main Olympic stadium in Tokyo before the closing ceremony which will close its Games today, hit by the Covid.

Protesters angry that the centerpiece of the sport was allowed to unfold even as infection skyrocketed in the country were held back by police who surrounded the arena.

After finally giving the green light to the Games after a year of Covid delays, Japan will now have to count the cost – both economically and politically – of pushing the plans forward.

Japanese athletes won record medals and a Covid secure bubble meant to protect largely detained teams – but elsewhere infections have skyrocketed and Tokyo now faces a $ 15 billion bill with no tourism rebound to compensate for it.

The event also deeply divided the Japanese into pro and anti-Games camps, with this division to be visible at the closing ceremony – as the athletes celebrate as guests of honor while the stands are empty due Covid restrictions on crowds.

Only a few dozen prominent figures and members of the media will be on hand to witness the debates in person with the rest of the country forced to look at home, as was the case during the somewhat grim opening ceremony.

For the host nation, the Olympics fell short of the global triumph and financial blockbuster they once sought – aimed at showing the country’s recovery from the devastating tsunami and earthquake of 2011.

Instead, he was forced to delay and drastically change his plans in the wake of Covid, which more than doubled the original bill estimate.

Still, organizers appear to have prevented the Games from turning into a COVID-19 superspreader event, an undeniable achievement given that some 50,000 people have gathered amid the pandemic.

While the bubble – the collection of venues and hotels to which Olympic visitors were largely confined – seemed to hold, elsewhere some things collapsed.

Fueled by the Delta variant of the virus, daily infections reached more than 5,000 for the first time in Tokyo, threatening to overwhelm its hospitals.

Normally one of the most electric cities in the world, Tokyo is in a state of emergency, robbing it of the manic buzz of an Olympic host or the enthusiastic crowds of its last Olympics in 1964.

Public anger over the pandemic response and the slow launch of the vaccine have seriously damaged the reputation of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Opinion polls have shown that most Japanese oppose hosting the Games during the pandemic.

Potential spectators always came in force, daring authorities to peek from the viaducts as they attempted to catch a glimpse of outdoor events such as triathlon or new sports such as skateboarding.

“We can already say with confidence that we have had a very successful Olympic Games given all the uncertainties we have had over the past two years,” said President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach before the ceremony.

Japan’s medal record also helped take some of the sting out for the organizers.

The United States led the tally with 39 gold medals on Sunday afternoon, with China at 38 and Japan at 27.

Thirteen gold medals were up for grabs on Sunday before the closing ceremony, notably in the men’s marathon, won by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and women’s basketball, which went to the United States.

Japan are due to hand over the Olympic Witness to the next host city, Paris, in a ceremony that will begin at 8:00 p.m. JST (11:00 GMT).

“To the Japanese people, thank you, you have achieved what many thought was impossible,” Australian Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman told a press conference.

After a year of delay and often against the backdrop of cavernous and almost empty venues, the Games themselves were rich in drama.

This culminated in the defection of Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who, in a moment more reminiscent of the Cold War, refused to board a return flight after being taken to the airport against her will.

She has since applied for refugee status in Poland.

American superstar gymnast Simone Biles shocked the world when she withdrew from five of her six events, including abruptly dropping out of the women’s team final after attempting a single jump, citing concerns for her mental health and physical.

The 24-year-old spoke candidly about her struggles to cope with the weight of the expectations placed on her and made the world aware of “twisties”, a type of mental block that prevents gymnasts from performing their challenging skills. gravity.

Biles eventually returned to win bronze on beam in the final event of the women’s gymnastics program, a moment of triumph that crystallized her transformation from Olympic champion to mental health advocate.

In athletics, Italy provided a different kind of shock with their incredible run.

Their victories included a stunning gold in the men’s sprint relay, bringing their gold total in track and field to five.

In swimming, the United States was without 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps for the first time since the Atlanta Games in 1996, and although their gold number fell, they still finished the competition tops the medal table with 30.

But they were pushed closely by the Australian team who achieved their best total of nine golds and 21 overall, eight of their titles won by their astonishing women’s team.

At the end of the Games, Japan will now have to count the cost.

The bill for the Olympic and Paralympic Games is expected to be 1,640 billion yen ($ 15 billion), 22% more than it was before the Games were postponed to 2020, and twice as high as estimate of 800 billion yen submitted by Tokyo in its host bid.

The bill, which will have to be paid in full after the Games are over, will likely be settled by the Tokyo government and central government.


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