LONDON–The London Olympics closed Sunday night, leaving lingering memories of many smiles and tears. Athletes who fulfilled their dreams, and those who couldn’t do so, gazed at the disappearing Olympic flame with bright smiles.
Japan won 38 medals, the nation’s largest Olympic haul. In particular, female competitors performed well at these Games. Judoka Kaori Matsumoto won Japan’s first gold medal in London, and soccer, table tennis and badminton players won Japan’s first-ever medals in those events.
The Japanese delegation entered the Olympic Stadium as about 80,000 spectators looked on. They smiled at the stands, waving Japanese and British flags.
Saori Yoshida, who won a third-straight gold in the women’s 55 kilogram freestyle wrestling division, carried the national flag at the closing ceremony. She had a spring in her step, perhaps because she felt freed from the heavy pressure to win that had been on her shoulders.
Members of the women’s volleyball team, which won a medal for the first time in 28 years, gleefully waved as they entered the stadium. Saori Kimura, a 25-year-old volleyball player, jumped up and down as music played.
Wrestler Kyoko Hamaguchi cried when she was stunningly defeated in her first match, but she flashed a lovely smile at the closing ceremony. Javelin thrower Genki Dean, who has a British father and a Japanese mother, was asked by many people to have photos taken with them.
As the ceremony drew to a close, the mayor of London handed the Olympic flag to the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, where the 2016 Games will be held. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, declared the Games closed, saying: “The 17 days of the Olympics have been unforgettable. Thank you, London.”
With those words, 204 flames that represented participating countries and regions gently went out. Fireworks exploded above the stadium to mark the end of the sporting spectacle.