Tokyo came to a standstill on Friday as an estimated 800,000 people filled its downtown streets to give 87 Japanese medallists from the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games an ecstatic homecoming.
Soaking up the hazy autumnal sunshine, the spectators roared their appreciation as the athletes, each wearing the medals they won in Brazil, paraded through the centre of the Japanese capital on open-top buses.Immaculately dressed in their red and white and beige and blue uniforms, the medal-winners smiled and waved enthusiastically to the crowds flanking the 2.5-kilometre route.
Generating some memorable scenes as Tokyo’s residents turned out en masse to salute their sporting heroes, the parade ran from the world-famous Ginza district, with its many shops and restaurants, to Nihonbashi, the city’s historical centre, home to a fascinating mix of centuries-old establishments and cultural landmarks.
The event, which provided a taste of the kind of scenes the world’s athletes can expect when the Japanese capital hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, was preceded by an opening ceremony. Attending it were three-time Olympic wrestling champion and Rio 2016 silver medallist Saori Yoshida, and Paralympic wheelchair tennis bronze medallist Yui Kamiji, who respectively bore the Olympic and Paralympic flags for the occasion. Joining them were a number of dignitaries, among them Japanese Minister of Education Matsuno Hirokazu, and Takeda Tsunekazu, the President of the Japanese Olympic Committee.Japan won a total of 41 medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics, a record haul that included 12 golds, while its Paralympians took home 24 medals in all. The country’s athletes will be looking to do even better in four years’ time, when the people of Tokyo will no doubt turn out in force once more to cheer them on.