Philip Barker

There is always a tear or two when the Olympic Flame is finally extinguished, but this time it seemed even more poignant.

The moment brought to an end to Tokyo’s second Olympics after a journey which had begun in the wake of tragedy in 2011 when a terrible earthquake and tsunami ravaged the east coast of Japan.

Tokyo 2020’s President Seiko Hashimoto had talked of how the Flame would "quietly go out." It was an apt description of a dignified and low key Ceremony which conveyed a sense of gratitude that the Games had been able to take place at all.

Many of the athletes carried messages of thanks. Most of the 4500 who took part seemed to sense that the exuberant displays usually seen at the closing would be inappropriate.

Instead of "Sayonara" or goodbye, the message which flashed across the scoreboard was "Arigato" or thank you.

This last two weeks, the Flame had burned on the waterfront at Ariake Yume-no-Ohashi Bridge where the citizens of Tokyo, denied the opportunity to watch the Games by circumstances, were at least able to view the Cauldron.

Tonight it was back in the Olympic Stadium where it had been lit over a fortnight ago.

"We wanted to create a peaceful, laid-back atmosphere that expresses our gratitude for the athletes, and in turn allows them to give thanks to all those involved in the Games and the people of the world," ceremony organisers said.

It was perhaps a little unfortunate that one of the set pieces, the creation of the Olympic Rings, was seen only by television viewers at home. There were no spectators in the Stadium, though the athletes in the Stadium would surely have appreciated it.

The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra had a 13 minute set which took in the traditional Japanese song Sukiyaki and elements of jive. This came to a conclusion with a performance of "Ode to Joy."

It was a complete contrast to the last time Beethoven’s masterwork had been performed at an Olympic Ceremony in Japan. That was back in 1998 when Seiji Ozawa had conducted choirs in five continents at the Nagano Winter Olympics.

The message Arigato, which translates as thank you, appears on the screen in the Olympic Stadium during the Tokyo 2020 Closing Ceremony ©Getty Images
The message Arigato, which translates as thank you, appears on the screen in the Olympic Stadium during the Tokyo 2020 Closing Ceremony ©Getty Images

A scene called All Tokyokites was intended to invoke a Sunday walk in the parks of Tokyo.

"Despite having come all the way to Tokyo, this year, the athletes did not have the opportunity to see or experience Tokyo for themselves," organisers said. 

"And so, we wanted to create a segment that provides them with a special Tokyo experience."

The theme of togetherness seemed to percolate through every strand of the Ceremony.

As with Rio 2016, the Ceremony made extensive use of light and projection and video footage.

On the big screens the athletes were able to watch traditional Ainu dance from Hokkaido, Ryukyu Eisa from Okinawa, the Nishimonai Bon Odori from Akita and then the Gujo Odori from Gifu, before live performers gathered to dance the Tokyo Ondo.

Although Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was in the stadium to receive the ceremonial Olympic flag, the handover sequence by the 2024 host city also made extensive use of video presentation from Paris.

It was perhaps understandable as organisers have striven to keep visitors to a minimum in order to restrict the spread of coronavirus as much as possible.

There was a moment of remembrance which featured a performance for Aoi Yamada as other members of the cast carried lanterns. Across the field Kensako Satu struck the traditional taiko drum.

The 1964 Games still have a resonance here. A woman played by actress Shinobu Otake and a group of children gazed at the stars and reflected on Tokyo’s first Olympics. They sang "Hoshi Meguri no Uta (A Stroll Among the Stars)", as the Flame died.

There was still one more video contribution. A preview of the Paralympics ended the Closing Ceremony. They are little more than a fortnight away.