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August 9, 2021

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‘Most challenging’ Tokyo 2020 ends with China finishing 2nd

The Tokyo 2020 Games closed yesterday with IOC chief Thomas Bach saying it had been the “most challenging Olympic journey” after a year’s pandemic delay and threats of cancellation.

Bach called the Tokyo Games “unprecedented” as he addressed the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium, which was empty of spectators as Japan battles a record coronavirus outbreak.

“In these difficult times we are all living through, you give the world the most precious of gifts: hope,” the International Olympic Committee president told athletes at the closing ceremony.

“And now I have to mark the end of this most challenging Olympic journey to Tokyo: I declare the Games of the 32nd Olympiad closed,” Bach said.

It marked a low-key end to an extraordinary Olympics played out in empty venues with only athletes, team officials and media present.

Athletes have lived in strict biosecure conditions with social distancing at the Olympic Village and instructions to wear masks unless eating, sleeping, training or competing. Fears of a major outbreak among the mostly vaccinated Olympic athletes and officials proved unfounded and 430 cases were picked up during the Games, including 32 in the Olympic Village.

As the Olympic flag was passed to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo for the 2024 Games, live footage showed cheering crowds in the French capital.

China claimed 38 gold, 32 silver and 18 bronze medals at the Tokyo Games, equaling its previous best haul of gold medals at any overseas Olympics, by finishing second, just one short of the United States’ winning gold tally.

The Chinese dominated in weightlifting, diving and table tennis, missing out on only one gold in each sport. The country’s shooting squad won a record 11 medals, including four golds. The badminton players reached finals in all five categories before snatching the women’s singles and mixed doubles gold medals. There were also three gold medals in gymnastics.

China’s haul of gold medals in those six sports has reached 28, more than its gold total five years ago in Rio. There were also remarkable breakthroughs in athletics and rowing.

Four-time Olympian Gong Lijiao claimed the women’s shot put title after renewing her personal best twice. The 32-year-old veteran gave China its first Olympic gold in field events, and was soon followed by Liu Shiying who won the women’s javelin gold.

Despite missing out on a medal, star sprinter Su Bingtian wowed many with his Asian record 9.83-second performance in the men’s 100m semifinals, becoming the first Chinese sprinter to appear on the starting blocks of the Olympic 100m final. He came in sixth in 9.98, the best ever result for an Asian sprinter.

In rowing, the team of Chen Yunxia, Zhang Ling, Lu Yang and Cui Xiaotong won gold in the women’s quadruple sculls in world-record time, with bronze medals coming in the women’s eight and men’s double sculls.

At 32 years old, Ma Long became the most decorated table tennis player in Olympic history with five gold medals. Men’s 81kg weightlifting gold medalist Lu Xiaojun, who turned 37 on July 27, broke the record for the oldest Olympic champion in the sport set by Soviet Union’s Rudolf Plukfelder, who was 36 when he won gold at Tokyo 1964.

Yang Qian, Jiang Ranxin and Zhang Changhong, all born in the 2000s, were present in Chinese shooters’ four golds. Quan Hongchan, at 14 the youngest member in the Chinese delegation, collected full marks in three out of five dives en route to her triumph in the women’s 10m platform event.

The USA started the last day two golds behind China but the women’s basketball and volleyball titles and track cyclist Jennifer Valente’s omnium victory put them top of the table with 39 gold medals.

Tokyo will host the Paralympics from August 24. The Olympic circus will reconvene in just six months when Beijing holds the Winter Games in February.


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