“At the end of the day, we’re not just entertaining, we’re human,” Biles told reporters after her bronze balance beam.
Biles arrived in Tokyo as a decorated competitor, but left after highlighting the well-being of the athletes and the pressures of elite sport. And she wasn’t the only one who redefined her legacy during the Games.
“There were a lot of women before me who had to keep quiet about their fight,” Felix said of the way sports and athletics often overlook a woman’s career during and after childbirth.
“For me to be able to get out – I think my daughter gave me the courage to do it.”
Her Olympic career spans five games, which World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said is “frankly, off the planet.”
“We are fortunate that it is part of our sport,” Coe added. “It’s a great.”
New sports, new medals, new records
While both Biles and Felix have competed in their final games, Tokyo 2020 also spotlighted athletes at the start of their Olympic careers.
Records are broken at every Games, but perhaps not in the same spectacular way as they were at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
“There’s some efficiency in the boot, don’t get me wrong, and it’s nice to have a good track,” Benjamin said.
“But no one in history would go out there and do what we did now, ever. I don’t care who you are.”
The new landmarks are not set only on the running track. Yulimar Rojas broke the world record in the women’s triple jump with a jump of 16.57 metres – 17 centimeters over the previous record, which has held for 26 years.
For others, it didn’t require a registration to leave a footprint on the games.
Silver medalist Raven Saunders, as have many other athletes over the past 15 months, has used her moment in the spotlight to highlight social injustice.
Fans may have been kept away from nearly all Olympic events amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped them from experiencing the games in person as many gathered around venues trying to get a glimpse of the event.
At Emei Urban Sports Park, for example, fans lining up on the adjacent pedestrian street had a distant view of the sports-climbing competition — despite signs and security officials urging people not to congregate there.
Similar scenes were shown about one kilometer away where the Olympic cauldron is on display. The site, located on the Yume-no Ohashi Bridge, was rarely without a crowd taking pictures, although billboards and security advised members of the public to keep walking.
Then outside the Olympic Stadium, fans often line up to take pictures with the Olympic rings, while the nearby Tokyo 2020 store was busy with people buying T-shirts, pins and other memorabilia.
There is no doubt that the athletes would have been well supported if the fans were allowed into the stadiums – not least because of the success of Japan, which won 27 gold medals.
Sometimes, especially at the beginning of the games, the places were eerily quiet.
On some occasions, the chattering sound of cicadas was the dominant voice in games.
This does not mean that the places were completely devoid of atmosphere. The non-competing athletes showed they could be voracious fans from the stands, while the stadium announcers and music – which blared through loudspeakers at most events – filled the silence.
The background to the pandemic dominated preparations for the Tokyo Games, as rumors of another cancellation or postponement spread.
In places, hygiene protocols – including temperature checks, wearing masks, hand sanitizer, and socially distancing benches – have been set in place and strictly enforced by the massive number of volunteers.
Coronavirus cases in Tokyo soared as the Games began, regularly surpassing more than 4,000 new infections per day; Inside the Olympic “bubble”, there have been more than 400 confirmed positive cases, the majority of whom are residents of Japan.
“The flow of people into downtown Tokyo has not increased compared to the time before the Olympics opened,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday.
“I don’t think the Olympics led to an increase in infection.”
On Sunday, the last day of the Olympic competition, thick and gray clouds blanketed Tokyo as rain fell across the city – an unusual sight at the end of 16 sunny days.
The gloomy weather marked a temporary end to measures as the Paralympic Games began on August 24 – another opportunity for Japan to deliver sports drama in the midst of a global pandemic.
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