Summer Sports

IOC president declares Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games closed

The pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympic Games came to an end with a smaller, more subdued closing ceremony than in years' past, much like the opening ceremony 17 days ago.

Subdued closing ceremony marked end of 16 days of competition

The Olympic flame is extinguished at the end of the closing ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

The pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympic Games came to an end Sunday with a smaller, more subdued closing ceremony than in years' past, much like the opening ceremony 17 days ago.

After a more than two-hour ceremony that saluted the athletes, organizers and volunteers who made these Games a success, IOC president Thomas Bach declared the Games closed and the Olympic flame was extinguished.

"In these difficult times, you gave to the world the most precious of gifts: hope," Bach said, addressing the athletes. "For the first time since the pandemic began, the entire world came together."

In the final moments, a video montage previewing the upcoming Paralympic Games played on the stadium's giant screens before a brief fireworks display.

WATCH | Olympic flame is extinguished to close Tokyo 2020:

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The ceremony ended with the word "arigato" meaning "thank you" displayed on an LED screen in same font that "sayonara" meaning "goodbye" was displayed at the end of the 1964 Tokyo Games.

Damian Warner was Canada's flag-bearer at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo as the Games drew to a close after more than two weeks of competition.

"For me it's like a dream come true," Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair said before marching into the stadium when asked what it was like to attend a closing ceremony as an Olympic gold medallist. She and her team beat Sweden in a penalty shootout to win gold.

WATCH | Christine Sinclair during athletes' entrance: 'I'm so proud to be part of this group':

Statement from PM

In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated all of Canada's athletes who participated in the Games.

"Over the course of the Games, our athletes made us proud and showed us why Canadians are some of the best athletes in the world. While seven gold medals, six silver medals, and 11 bronze medals are impressive, all of our athletes gave their best and should take pride in their performances," he said.

"From the new personal bests to the Canadian records broken, we have so much to celebrate. We will never forget Penny Oleksiak becoming the most decorated athlete in Canadian Olympic history and Team Canada winning its first-ever gold medal in women's soccer."

With many athletes already back home in their respective countries — pandemic protocol required them to leave Tokyo within 48 hours of the end of their competitions — and a ban on spectators, the typically jubilant affair was a brisk two hours.

WATCH | Damian Warner carries Canadian flag into Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony:

The theme of the closing ceremony was "Worlds We Share," to reflect the fact that each of us inhabits our own separate world that we then share with those around us, much like athletes from around the globe coming together to share the Olympic Games.

And they did so amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the city of Tokyo itself under a state of emergency amid record case numbers. Despite a few-dozen personnel, including athletes, having tested positive for the coronavirus, the Games managed to conclude safely without a major outbreak that shuttered a venue or cancelled an event.

Closing ceremony highlights

The closing ceremony opened with a video montage of highlights from the 17 days of competition and a short but brilliant fireworks display, all meant as a symbol of gratitude to those who made the Games a success, from volunteers to athletes.

Japan's Crown Prince Akishino then entered the stadium with Bach, before the Japanese flag was carried in.

After the athletes marched in, the lights in the stadium went dark and the Olympic rings took shape from beads of light beaming throughout the stadium, representing the athletes in attendance and those who could not be there in person.

The brilliant light show was a departure from the opening ceremony, when the Olympic rings were displayed as a sculpture made of wood from trees that grew from seeds brought to the 1964 Tokyo Games by athletes from around the world.

After more fireworks, in a segment called "All Tokyoites," swathes of grass filled the stadium floor to create a park-like space for athletes to enjoy on a Sunday. 

Musicians, cyclists and breakdancers converged on the makeshift park to simulate the experience of being in an urban outdoor space.

Japanese traditions

While many athletes wore masks and were asked to observe physical distancing, they were given the opportunity to mingle in a way that they weren't allowed to during the Games. Though they could gather at the athletes' village, they were not allowed to leave the village to sight-see in the city. During the Games, some members of the Australian team were disciplined for leaving the village to buy alcohol.

Once the Tokyo park party ended, the Greek flag was raised as the country's anthem was played, as is custom to pay tribute to the birthplace of the Games. As is also custom, medals were then presented.

While different sports can be chosen for the closing ceremony medal presentation, it is generally the marathon for the Summer Games. For the first time, both men's and women's marathoners were presented with their medals Sunday, in keeping with these Games' stated goals of greater inclusivity and gender equity.

The Japanese word 'arigato,' meaning thank you, is displayed at Tokyo Olympic Stadium at the end of the closing ceremony for Tokyo 2020. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

After the new members of the IOC athletes' commission were introduced, a video montage played tribute to the thousands of volunteers who make the Games run. And in a poignant segment meant to inspire reflection and remembrance, a traditional Japanese drummer gave way to a video tour of Japan with traditional songs and dances.

It began with a song and dance of the Ainu people (from Hokkaido prefecture), and then carried on to the Ryukyu Eisa dance (Okinawa prefecture), the Nishimonai Bon Odori dance (Akita prefecture) and the Gujo Odori (Gifu prefecture).

On to Paris

The opening ceremony then turned toward the next Summer Games in Paris in three years. Male soprano Tomotaka Okamoto sang the Olympic anthem before the Olympic flag was taken down and handed over to the mayor of Paris. As per tradition, the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, handed the flag to IOC president Bach, who then handed it to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

While the Olympic flag is typically flown over the host's city hall in the four years leading up to the next Games, the timeline is shortened to three this time after the year-long postponement of Tokyo 2020 due to the pandemic.

And for the first time at an Olympic closing ceremony, the upcoming host city put on its own abbreviated — but jubilant — show on Sunday to offer a glimpse at what the Paris Games will look like some 100 years after the city last hosted the Olympics.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo holds the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony. Paris will host the Games in 2024. (David Goldman/The Associated Press)

The goal of the Paris 2024 organizers is to bring people closer to the Games and the Games closer to the city. To that end, an enormous Olympic flag — organizers say it is the largest one ever flown — was hoisted up the Eiffel Tower to be visible to all of Paris as a symbol of the coming Games.

France's portion of the opening ceremony began with a video of the National Orchestra of France playing La Marseillaise, which was followed by a second video of a BMX biker riding through the streets of Paris, past some of the City of Lights' most famous landmarks, from the Louvre to Notre-Dame.

It ended with a live shot of Paris just beside the Eiffel Tower, where a crowd, many draped in French flags, cheered some of their country's athletes from the Tokyo Games who were present, wearing their medals. French fighter jets flew over the crowd and left behind a trail of smoke in the French flag's colours.

After remarks by Hashimoto and Bach, the Games were officially declared closed.

WATCH | CBC Sports explains: The Olympic flame:


Andrea Janus

Senior writer

Andrea Janus is a senior writer and copy editor at and can typically be found writing and editing breaking news and features with a cup of Earl Grey tea at hand. She has written extensively on health issues, as well as federal and provincial politics.

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