Tokyo — Kenya featured prominently Sunday as curtains were drawn on the 32nd Olympic Games, with Tokyo organisers overcoming huge challenges, most significantly rising coronavirus cases and growing opposition to the staging of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle.
There were pockets of muted anti-Olympics demonstrations outside the Tokyo National Stadium, the centerpiece host of the two-week $15.4 billion (about Sh1.6 trillion) extravaganza that ended with the US topping the table with a total of 113 medals – 39 gold, 41 silver and 33 bronze.
It was followed by China with 88 medals (38-32-18) and hosts Japan at third place with 58 medals (27-14-17).
Kenya was the best African nation and 19th overall, with 10 medals – four gold, four silver and two bronze – all panned from athletics.
Emmanuel Korir (800 metres), Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon (1,500m) alongside marathon runners Peres Jepchirchir and Eliud Kipchoge mined gold, with Hellen Obiri (5,000m), Ferguson Rotich (800m), Timothy Cheruiyot (1,500m) and Brigid Kosgei securing silver.
The bronze medal winners were Hyvin Kiyeng and Benjamin Kigen, both in the 3,000m steeplechase.
Traditionally, the medals for the marathon are the last to be awarded at the Olympic Games, during the official closing ceremony, and last night, Kenya’s national anthem was played twice as Jepchirchir and Kipchoge received their coveted medals.
Earlier in the day, Kipchoge had proved why he is the greatest distance runner of all time when he became the third person to retain the Olympic marathon title in the Games’ 125-year history, after Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila (1960 and 1964) and East Germany’s Waldemar Cierpinski (1976 and 1980).
Kipchoge’s winning time was two minutes and six seconds outside compatriot Sammy Wanjiru’s Olympic record 2:06:32 from the 2008 Beijing Games, with Sunday’s race organised in Sapporo owing to concerns over Tokyo’s heat and humidity.
Besides athletics, Kenya featured in sevens rugby for men and women, boxing, swimming, volleyball, beach volleyball and taekwondo.
“Dear athletes, over the last 16 days, you amazed us with your sporting achievements. With your excellence, with your joy, with your tears, you created the magic of these Olympic Games,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Back said in his closing address at the 68,000-seater National Stadium that will also host the Paralympic Games from August 24 to September 5.
“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. At the same time, you were living peacefully together under one roof in the Olympic Village. This is a powerful message of solidarity and peace.”
There was another proud Kenyan moment when former rugby campaign Humphrey Kayange was introduced by Bach alongside other new members of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission.
While Kayange was appointed by Bach, other new members of the influential commission were elected by fellow athletes at the weekend. They include Japan’s multiple Olympic fencing medalist Ota Yuki and Italian Olympic swimming champion Federica Pellegrini.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the Tokyo Olympics were important in connecting the world during adversity.
“The Tokyo Games, which opened with the world still facing the enormous challenges of Covid-19, have been an opportunity for the people of the world to reaffirm their connection with each other,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Suga had earlier denied there was a link between the Tokyo Olympics and the recent surge in the number of coronavirus infections in the Japanese capital.
No spectators were allowed at the competition venues while Tokyo remains under a state of emergency as part of the national government’s measures to contain the spread of the virus.
On Sunday, Tokyo reported 4,066 new Covid-19 cases.
Paris will host the next Games in 2024 and at yesterday’s ceremony, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike passed the Olympic flag on to Bach who in turn handed it over to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.