Looking Back on the Tokyo Olympics!

Ayumi Matsuzaki ('24)

While still far from the hope of a pandemic-free world, the long-awaited Tokyo Olympic Games commenced from July 23 to August 8. Although there have been countless concerns and scandals leading up to the event, these historical 17 days were filled with thrill and passion – ending with some crying in joy and others in regret. This article will briefly describe the history of the Olympic Games and cover the many highlights of the Tokyo Olympics.  


Continuously taking place every two years for over a century, the Olympics has a profound history. The (modern) Olympics first took place in 1896, in Athens, Greece, under the responsibility of Pierre de Coubertin, to revive the Ancient Olympics Games and unify the world. Regardless of nationality, race, and gender, the event allows the best athletes from over 200 countries to take pride in and showcase their motherland to the world. It is internationally recognized as the most prominent event that brings everyone together as one. 


The main motto of the Tokyo Olympics was "United by Emotion," (感動で私たちは一つに) expressing the hope that the world will come together and realize that "there is more that unites than divides them." In addition, the three fundamental visions were, "Achieving Personal Best," "Unity in Diversity," and "Connecting to Tomorrow." These core values were decided not only in the intention to raise awareness of hope and personal achievement – particularly in these times of hardship – but also as an opportunity for people to broaden their perspectives on different cultures and values. 


With over 10,000 athletes from around the globe, 33 competitions and 339 events took place this summer. Moreover, 6 new sports: surfing, sports climbing, skateboarding, karate, and baseball/softball, were introduced. In spite of the one-year delay and the many abrupt policy changes caused by the pandemic, countless records were set during the Tokyo Olympics. This included 3 world records, 12 Olympic records, 28 area records, and 151 national records. Furthermore, based on the number of medals, the top three performing countries were the United States of America, China, and Japan, with 113, 88, and 58 total medals, respectively. 

Olympic Ceremony

In a stadium with thousands of empty seats, the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics took place on July 23, 2021. In any other typical year, the grand opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics would have been filled with commotion and voices keen on watching the upcoming performances. Instead, in this year's unprecedented conditions, people watched the engaging performances over digital screens. On top of that, there were also several voices of criticism regarding the tradition of the Olympics and how Japan's culture will be portrayed accurately. Nevertheless, the Tokyo Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremony certainly proved the critics wrong and still entertained the whole world with its enthralling illustration of Japan's culture. 

First, the lighting of the Olympic cauldron may likely be what first comes to mind when one thinks of a traditional Olympics Opening Ceremony. The white spherical cauldron for the Tokyo Olympics, designed by Oki Sato, the founder of Nendo, "expresses not only the sun itself but also the energy and vitality that can be obtained from it such as...flowers blooming." Making it unique is the flame that is powered by hydrogen, serving to raise awareness on tackling climate change through global action. At the end of the ceremony, Naomi Osaka, the Japanese tennis star, set the cauldron ablaze as the final torchbearer. 

Other than the lighting of the cauldron, the traditional Parade of Nations, and the several speeches, the Opening Ceremony was also composed of various other events, such as the mesmerizing drone performance, unique pictogram demonstration, and the numerous dance choreographies that represented Japan. In fact, the use of songs from famous video games such as 'Dragon Quest' also provoked excitement among international fans. 

After 17 days of stimulating performances and events, the Closing Ceremony was held on August 8. Then, the ceremony marked a close to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with fireworks, the extinguishing of the cauldron flame, and the word, 'ありがとう,' meaning 'thank you.'

The successful commencement of the Tokyo Olympics acted as a light of hope for the future and has united the world. From this, the timeless power of sports, something undeterred by race, gender, or nationality, has become evident. Additionally, it can undoubtedly be said that each athlete has carved memories in countless hearts, making their home countries proud. In these ways, the true legacy of the Olympic Games has once again been cemented, and one can only hope that the upcoming Beijing and Paris games will do the same.

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