Tokyo Olympics: IOC chief claims athletes gave us the precious gift of hope
IOC president Thomas Bach hailed the athletes of Tokyo 2020 for offering the world "the most precious of gifts" in the form of "hope" before bringing the Games to a close on Sunday.
There was plenty of scepticism throughout Japan, and indeed across the globe, about the practicality of hosting an Olympics in the midst of a pandemic.
Bach and the Olympics organisers remained steadfast in their belief the Games – delayed by a year due to the proliferation of COVID-19 – should go ahead, though, and Tokyo 2020 has played out without major incident over the past two weeks.
Speaking at Sunday's closing ceremony, Bach reiterated the message of solidarity he heeded when opening the 32nd Olympiad a little over two weeks ago.
"Dear athletes, over the last 16 days you have amazed us with your sporting achievements, with your excellence, with your joy and with your tears. You created the magic of these Olympic games Tokyo 2020," he said.
"You were faster, you went higher, you were stronger, because we all stood together in solidarity.
"You were competing fiercely with each other for Olympic glory and at the same time you were living peacefully together under one roof at the Olympic village. This is a powerful message of solidarity and peace.
"You inspired us with this unifying power of sport, this is even more remarkable given the many challenges you had to face because of the pandemic. In these difficult times you gave to 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 globe 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 you to shine. You the Japanese people can be extremely proud of what you have achieved. On behalf of all the athletes we say thank you Tokyo, thank you Japan.
"And now I have to mark the end of this most challenging Olympic journey. I declare the Games of the 32nd Olympiad closed."
Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, added: "The athletic events of the past 17 days have inspired us, given us courage, and shown us hopes for the future.
"I would like to express my feelings of gratitude and respect to all the athletes, and to everyone else who overcame so many difficulties to so thoroughly prepare for these Games and deliver their absolute best performances."