International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach claimed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics had given hope to the world after it was staged against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bach officially brought the curtain down on the Games during last night’s Closing Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.
The Olympics were hosted a year later than planned due to the global health crisis which continues to grip the world.
A series of COVID-19 countermeasures were implemented by organisers to ensure athletes were able to complete safely, but no spectators were permitted at venues in Tokyo.
Bach said competitors had created “magic” over the past 16 days and felt they delivered a “powerful message of solidarity and peace”.
“You inspired us with this unifying power of sport,” said Bach.
“This was even more remarkable given the many challenges you had to face because of the pandemic.
“In these difficult times we are all living through, you give the world the most precious of gifts: hope.
“For the first time since the pandemic began, the entire world came together.
“Sport returned to centre stage.
“Billions of people around the world were united by emotion, sharing moments of joy and inspiration.
“This gives us hope.
“This gives us faith in the future.
“The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are the Olympic Games of hope, solidarity and peace.
“You, the best athletes of the world, could only make your Olympic dream come true because Japan prepared the stage for your shine.”
Bach also paid tribute to the Japanese Government, Tokyo 2020 and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for putting in an “unprecedented effort” to make the Games happen.
“I would like to thank the Japanese authorities at all levels, in particular Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Governor Yuriko Koike for their steadfast commitment,” said Bach.
“Thank you for staying with us on the side of the athletes who were longing so much for these Olympic Games.
“Our deep gratitude and appreciation go to the Organising Committee.
“Nobody has ever organised a postponed Olympic Games before.
“Thank you to its President, my dear fellow Olympian, Seiko Hashimoto, and to all the dedicated people in the Organising Committee for your great partnership and wonderful friendship.
“The same is true for the solidarity demonstrated by everyone in the Olympic community.
“Our warm thanks go to the National Olympic Committee, the International Federations, our TOP Partners, sponsors and rights-holding broadcasters for their truly outstanding show of unity and support.
“We did it for the athletes. We did it – together.”
Organisers had faced public opposition due to COVID-19 concerns, with medical experts claiming it could accelerate the spread of the virus.
Hashimoto praised the work of medics and volunteers over the ability to overcome a number of challenges.
She also hailed the efforts of athletes whose preparations for the Games were disrupted by the pandemic and had to adhere to COVID-19 protocols during their time in the Japanese capital.
“There are no words to describe what you have achieved in Tokyo,” said Hashimoto.
“You have accepted what seemed unimaginable, understood what had to be done, and through hard work and perseverance overcome unbelievable challenges.
“This has made you true Olympians.
“One athlete’s jubilant victory is another’s bitter defeat.
“Yet in the space of an instant, winner and loser come together in the same feeling of acknowledgement and respect.
“This is the beauty of the Olympic Games. This is the value of the Olympic spirit. Please never forget that sight.
“And in the future, tell the story of what you achieved here with confidence and pride.”
The Olympic Flag has now been passed on to Paris as the French capital prepares to host the Games in three years’ time.
“Even as the Games close, a new door opens: a door to the future, opened by athletes and the power of sport,” said Hashimoto.
“Sport has the power to change the world and our future” – and this power, I believe, will carry us through to the next Summer Games in Paris in 2024.
“Tonight the Olympic Flame that has lit up Tokyo will quietly go out.
“But the hope that has been ignited here will never be extinguished.
“It will remain alight in the hearts of people all over the world as we continue to hope for peace in the spirit of Ekecheiria, a tradition unbroken from the ancient Olympic Games.”
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