The details of the Tokyo Olympics’ closing ceremony are closely guarded before it begins. And the coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot. But based on the closing ceremonies of the recent past, we can still safely predict some of what we’ll see starting at 8 p.m. Sunday.
The athletes will arrive together.
Unlike in the opening ceremony, when athletes march in by country, they file into the stadium en masse at the closing ceremony, symbolically indicating that we are all one people. It’s like one of the final rooms of the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland. You will probably note that for the most part, the athletes come in roughly clustered by nation anyway.
Expect fewer athletes than in years past. At these Games, for pandemic-related reasons, athletes are being told to leave Japan 48 hours after their last event. So many of your favorites might well have already flown home.
There will be music.
Samba in Rio de Janeiro, Britpop in London — the music of the host nation normally features heavily in the closing ceremony. Could it be a moment for a J-pop act like AKB48?
There will be speeches.
Several dignitaries will speak highly of these Games in particular and the Olympic movement in general. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, will be one of them, and you can book it: He will be introduced as a former gold-medal-winning fencer.
Paris will get a segment.
The next host always gets about 10 minutes to put on a minishow of its own. So Paris will get a turn before the 2024 Games.
At the Rio ceremony, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe turned up dressed as Super Mario from the beloved Nintendo video game franchise. In Pyeongchang, Beijing offered pandas. Perhaps cancan girls and an Edith Piaf number this time around?
There will be a medal ceremony.
There is usually a medal ceremony held at the closing ceremony, typically the men’s marathon, which will be held early Sunday in Sapporo.
There will be tributes.
In Sochi, Russian authors were honored. In Rio, it was lace-making that was saluted, for some reason. What will Tokyo offer?
There will be anthems.
Besides the anthem of the winner of the marathon, we could very well get the anthems of Japan, France and Greece (the birthplace of the Games). They will probably also play the “Olympic anthem” and urge those in the stadium to stand, just as if the Olympics were an actual country.
The flame will go out.
There will be a moment, perhaps with solemn music, when the flame in the Olympic cauldron is doused. And then the long wait until the next Games will begin. Er, in six months in Beijing.
Some things will be different.
Like at the opening ceremony and just about every athletic event, there will be no fans on hand, although news media members and various bigwigs will be allowed inside. The feeling for those at the opening ceremony was, at least in part, inescapably melancholy, and it will be hard to shake that sensation no matter how much razzmatazz is on offer.
There may not be the typical type of show that you might call “hundreds of people pour onto the floor of the stadium and form themselves into shapes.” The opening ceremony was definitely dialed-down in terms of the sheer mass of participants.
Also different from many recent Olympics, NBC will not hold the broadcast of the event hostage for 12 hours for U.S. viewers. It will be aired live and then rebroadcast in prime time.
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