In photos: 7 highlights from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics closing ceremony

The Olympic flame was extinguished, but not before an AR light show, a mini summer festival and lots of fireworks

Kaila Imada
Written by
Kaila Imada

The 16 days of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics just flew by. Needless to say, this year’s Games have been unlike any other. From the meaningful opening ceremony to Japan’s record-breaking 27 gold medal wins, there’s been a lot to keep track of over the 339 events that took place in the last few weeks. 

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were also aiming to do something seemingly impossible: bring the world together in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. With top athletes competing together and people tuning in across the globe, the Olympics really showcased the uniting power of sport. 

Like the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony was also a subdued event. With no spectators allowed into the stands, the show was mainly attended by a small group of VIPs including Crown Prince Akishino, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and all the remaining athletes (those whose competitions finished earlier unfortunately were not allowed to stay for the closing ceremony).

After the entrance of Japan’s flag and a performance of the national anthem ‘Kimi Ga Yo’, by singers from the century-old Takarazuka Revue, the evening kicked off with a procession of all the participating country’s flags followed by the parade of athletes. As many competitors had already returned to their home countries, the parade was a lot smaller than the opening ceremony procession. However, the atmosphere was extremely joyful and celebratory, with athletes showcasing their medals to the world.

Once the athletes had all found their places around the stage, a brilliant light show burst from the centre of the stadium, accompanied by fireworks. The light show was a special treat just for the TV audience, created using augmented reality and mixed reality, meaning those in the stadium could not see it.

First, the Japan National Stadium transformed into a rainbow of colours – symbolising all the countries of the world – which started moving across the floor. Then, thousands of tiny lights seemed to flow all over the entire stadium. Finally, the lights cascaded from the roof into the centre stage before turning into a glittering gold version of the Olympic rings.

A chorus of music and dance followed the light show, featuring live performances by the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and singer-songwriter Milet. You could almost hear anime fans all around the world losing their minds when the ska band launched into ‘Gurenge’, the opening theme of the Demon Slayer anime.

Performers moved all across the stadium floor dancing to the music, juggling, skipping rope, break dancing, and even showing off some BMX and skateboarding moves. The aim was to give athletes a taste of Tokyo, since they’d been confined to the Olympic Village for the duration of the Games.

The national anthem of Greece was then followed by the marathon victory ceremony – an Olympic closing ceremony tradition. From the women’s race, Kenyan athletes Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei took home the gold and silver respectively with American runner Molly Seidel taking the bronze. The men’s race was won by Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, with Abdi Nageeye from the Netherlands taking silver and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi taking bronze.

A big thank you was given to the Olympic volunteers before a taiko drum performance kicked off an interpretive dance by Aoi Yamada. The performance opened into a video montage of traditional regional dances across Japan spanning from Hokkaido to Okinawa. 

The video began with a traditional Ainu dance performed against the gorgeous backdrop of Hokkaido before moving on to the tropical islands of Okinawa, where an Okinawan Eisa dance is performed. The video then took us to Akita prefecture for a showcase of the Nishimonai bon odori dance before heading to Gifu for the Gujo odori dance.

Olympics Closing Ceremony
Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Back in the Japan National Stadium, a mini bon odori festival was set up across the stadium floor, with dancers showing off their moves. It was a welcoming sight, as most summer festivals have been cancelled in Japan this year.

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IOC president Thomas Bach, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo then took the floor for the Olympic flag handover ceremony. France’s national anthem was performed via a video touring through Paris showing the city’s sights, sounds and musicians. It even included a cameo of French astronaut Thomas Pesquet playing the saxophone from outer space.

A short snippet of what we can expect from the Paris 2024 Games was also shown, with plenty of Hollywood-worthy BMX action and break dancing or ‘breaking’, which will be introduced as a new Olympic sport in 2024. Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, also made an appearance on top of the Eiffel Tower. You can see the sporty part of the video above.

Olympics Closing Ceremony
Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The handover to Paris was followed by speeches from Thomas Bach and Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee. After their touching words, the 32nd Olympiad was brought to a close with a musical performance by Shinobu Otake and the Suginami Junior Chorus who sang 'Hoshi Meguri no Uta’. When the song finished, a rendition of Claude Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ played as the Olympic flame was finally extinguished.

Olympics Closing Ceremony
Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The Tokyo Olympics went out with a big bang as bright fireworks shot up into the sky, accompanied by a simple message reading ‘arigato’ (thank you) printed along the screen inside the stadium.

Olympic Closing Ceremony
Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

If you already miss the Games, don’t worry. The Paralympics start up on Tuesday August 24. In the meantime, you can take a look back at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics here.

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