...and scene! The Tokyo Olympics, held during a raging pandemic, drew the curtains down on Sunday. The host nation finished third with 27 golds and a total of 58 medals, a vast improvement from its 12 golds and 41 medals in 2016. But it will take greater pride that its bio-bubble largely remained intact.
The Games were held under intense scrutiny and amid constant pressure from locals, but the organisers managed to pull off a clean show.
Scores of people gathered around the Tokyo Olympic Stadium hours before the closing ceremony to witness the spectacle from the perimeters. Tokyo is still in a state of emergency, but social distancing was an alien concept as crowds thronged on the sidewalks, while the roads were kept out of bounds.
Among the horde of people gathered in the narrow by-lane outside the stadium was Faiz, from Eritrea, who studies international business and Japanese here. The street, cramped with humans, cycles, puppies in handbags, offered a panoramic view of the fireworks. Faiz said he heard there would be a drone show as well, but to his disappointment there was none.
A few yards away was Santosh from Pune, who has lived in Tokyo for three years. He brought his wife and his child on a stroller to watch the fireworks. But they were not able to catch a glimpse of Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia who carried the Indian flag for the Closing Ceremony.
It was a carnival on the streets. People turned up in cosplay suits, one came in a Wonder Woman costume and was accompanied by an elderly citizen donning a Superman t-shirt. They were ready for a party but were confined to a morose evening on the sidewalks. The entry to the stadium was restricted to athletes, officials, VIP guests and members of the media.
The policemen circling the stadium were watchful to sniff out any untoward incident. A group of stray cyclists took a wrong turn, and they were onto them in a split-second to redirect them. A few hundred protesters turned up with placards that read “Abolish Olympics” and “#GetOutBach”, but it ended peacefully.
On the other side of the road, under the magnificent wooden roof of the stadium, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach thanked the Japanese authorities for their support.
“These were unprecedented Olympic Games. It took us, the IOC and our Japanese partners and friends, an equally unprecedented effort to make them happen. This is why I would like to thank the Japanese authorities at all levels, in particular Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and Governor Koike Yuriko, for their steadfast commitment. Thank you for staying with us on the side of the athletes, who were longing so much for these Olympic Games,” he said.
"Our deep gratitude and appreciation go to the Organising Committee. Nobody has ever organised postponed Olympic Games before.”
Tokyo, which will now host the Paralympic Games from August 24, officially handed the baton to Paris. And now we wait for three more years, in the hope that India, which won an unprecedented seven medals here, can script history yet again.