TOKYO, August 8 (Reuters) – Japan closed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a record 27 gold medals, far surpassing the previous high of 16 at the Athens 2000 Olympics.
Mitsugi Ogata, general manager of Japan’s national delegation, praised the athletes on Sunday and said he was “happy that we had some uplifting news”.
There have been concerns that the Games will be written off as “unnecessary” amid a pandemic, but with the performances of Japanese athletes, organizers have “gradually gained the public’s understanding,” he said at a news conference.
Japan’s total number of medals is 58, also a record and more than the previous high of 37 medals in Athens.
These include medals in surfing and climbing and a gold medal for Tokyo’s Yuto Horigome in skateboarding – all three of the sports that made their Olympic debut in Tokyo.
Japan consistently won medals in judo as well, with Uta and Hifumi Abe being the first siblings in Olympic history to do so Win gold medals on the same day.
Initial forecasts by the data company Gracenote had estimated Japan’s expected medal wins this year at 60.
Japan also saw some major disappointments when tennis star and top contender Naomi Osaka was eliminated in the third round of the competition just days after she lit the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony.
In golf, the top-class Hideki Matsuyama could not win a bronze medal either.
While the majority of the public opposed the games after they were postponed due to COVID-19 in 2020, the IOC has touted the high television audience to show the Japanese public’s support for the event.
The TV ratings for a soccer semifinal between Japan and Spain rose to 43% at times, according to the daily Yomiuri.
The organizers also celebrated their success in preventing a COVID-19 superspreader event among Olympic staff and athletes.
However, daily coronavirus cases in the host city have skyrocketed during the Games, surpassing previous highs and eventually topping 5,000 cases – a headache for the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.
Although Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto turned down a final verdict on the Games until the Paralympics are over, she said at a press conference on Sunday that she “couldn’t say at this point that we are 100% successful”.
“If we had spectators, we couldn’t have given the public a sense of security,” said Hashimoto. The games took place largely without spectators – a necessary evil for the organizers.
She said that she felt the games were not yet “fully accepted” by the public, adding that there was room for improvement.
The Olympics were held in a “bubble” of arriving athletes and officials, which separated them from the general public and prevented the virus from spreading.
Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto admitted that there were stray incidents but of the Olympic people leaving the Olympic Village said, “All in all, I would say the bubble has been sustained.”
Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Michael Perry
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