Olympic officials have been predictably upbeat, saying the Games offered hope and uplifting moments, and proceeded without any major coronavirus outbreaks.
“These Olympic Games have been a powerful demonstration of the unifying power of sport,” said the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, in his closing press conference.
But it will take Japan longer to reckon with games that were highly controversial and developed when virus cases broke out in Tokyo and elsewhere.
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which called for the cancellation despite being a sponsor of the Games, said the nearly $ 15 billion event was a “gamble” on people’s lives.
“This bet went ahead, making the situation worse,” he said Monday.
A poll conducted by the newspaper during the last two days of the Games found that 56 percent of Japanese people supported holding the event, with 32 percent against it. Only 32 percent said they felt the games were “safe and secure,” and 54 percent were unconvinced.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were unlike any other, starting with last year’s historic postponement that changed years of planning for athletes.
The restrictions at the Games themselves meant masks for everyone, not cheering for anyone, and fans banned almost every venue for the first time.
– ‘High price’ – Despite everything, when the Games opened, there were indications that the Japanese public might be changing their minds.
Thousands of people flocked to the Olympic Stadium to catch a glimpse of the opening ceremony fireworks and to have a photo opportunity in front of the Olympic rings.
When the sport got underway, people defied requests to stay away from street events and bought Olympic merchandise in stores across Japan.
“If you see these athletes running in front of you, you can’t help but cheer them on,” Hirochika Tadeda told AFP along the triathlon route, which passed in front of his house.
Tributes to athletes were a key subject of editorials in Japan on Monday, and the Yomiuri Shimbun offered “high praise for the competitions in which they put all their efforts.”
There had been concerns about what the pandemic and the postponement would mean for the sport at the Games.
But despite some high-profile disappointments, the performances remained impressive, with world records broken and the successful introduction of several new sports, such as skateboarding and surfing.
The coronavirus cast a long shadow over the Games early on, and the Olympic dreams of several athletes were shattered by the results of a PCR test.
However, most were happy that the games went on.
“In the middle of the pandemic, they successfully held an incredible Olympic Games. They always greet us with a smile and a lot of kindness. Thank you,” Australian footballer Alanna Kennedy wrote on Twitter.
– ‘It lit up the world’ – “The Games have been held in the most challenging circumstances imaginable and the organizers have stood out,” added Hugh Robertson, President of the British Olympic Association.
The Olympics were also a triumph for Japanese sport, with a record 27 gold medals in everything from baseball to skateboarding.
Japanese Olympic officials said they felt the gold rush boosted public support for the games, pointing to families who took children to cheer spots outside or hung flags in their windows.
But behind the cheers, there is a sense of crisis looming from the sharp increase in virus cases during games.
Tokyo and many other parts of the country are in a state of emergency for viruses, and only about a third of the country is fully vaccinated, as the Delta variant fuels the rise in infections.
The issue could weigh on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s political future as he faces a race for leadership and then a general election in October.
For some, however, the sporting highlights swept away concerns about the pandemic.
“It’s true that I was a bit worried,” Reita Goto, a 21-year-old college student, told AFP.
“But in the end, the Olympics have enlightened not only Japan, but the world as well.”