Fireworks blew up in a sparkling spectacle as light poured into the stadium to form the six rings of the Olympic symbol. It was the beginning of the end. Just like that, after four years of preparation and another year of pandemic-related postponement, the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games are over.

The 16 days of competition have passed, and the Olympic flame was extinguished the morning of August 8.

The closing ceremony opened with the march of the countries’ flags, which came out in a single line and formed a circle of flying colors around the Olympic flame. Due to the rising COVID-19 levels in Tokyo, competitors were required to leave the city within 48 hours of the end of their event. As a result, some countries were either missing large numbers of their athletes or had none left, leaving volunteers to fly their flags.

Nonetheless, though they persisted through controversy, the Games and the closing ceremony, were an undeniable success, at least in terms of planning. The organizers took special care to thank the volunteers and citizens of Tokyo for their sacrifices and for helping them navigate the logistical nightmare of the pandemic.

The night (for Tokyo, morning for the U.S.) featured much celebration, from traditional Japanese drums to a ska and jazz band, and, of course, dancing across all nations.

In recognition of their crucial role, athletes gave some volunteers the same type of bouquet that medalists receive.

Then, an Olympic representative took the flag from Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, and handed it to the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. Meanwhile, in the host city of the 2024 Olympics, Parisians watched the French Air Force’s aerobatic team paint the sky in streaks of red, white and blue, modeling the French flag.

French Olympians who had returned from Tokyo celebrated with the mostly-masked crowd. A screen that sat in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower broadcast the words “Merci Tokyo” alongside English and Japanese translations. On the other side of the world, the flags of Japan, Greece and France flew together, billowing in the nighttime sky.

As the closing ceremony came to an end, fireworks boomed one by one in quick succession, surrounding the arena in a smoky halo of multi-colored light. Their pace synchronized and they shot off sounding like synchronized drums, exploding into the air with a brilliant white. When the spectacle died down, the word “arigato,” which means “thank you” in Japanese, appeared on the stadium screens, a call back to the 1964 Tokyo Games.

And now, the Beijing Winter Olympics are less than six months away

If you were unable to watch the closing ceremony live Sunday morning, it will be available during NBC’s primetime Closing Ceremony show on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET.

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