Held against all odds under the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have finally come to an end.
At the Paralympic Closing Ceremony on Sunday evening, organizers extinguished the cauldron after formally passing the baton to the next host city, Paris, in a nearly empty Japan National Stadium in the Japanese capital.
A colorful ceremony of music, dance, fireworks and another Parade of Nations marked the end of nearly two weeks of Paralympic competition that saw China top the medal table with 96 gold medals and 207 medals overall.
South Korea took home two golds, ten silvers and twelve bronze medals en route to finishing in forty-first place.
Congratulated as winners regardless of the medal tally by President Moon Jae-in on social media, the Korean delegation entered the parade eightieth led by boccia pairs champion Jeong Ho-won as flag bearer.
Among the 163 participant countries was Afghanistan, whose two athletes managed to miraculously represent their homeland by fleeing the Taliban through the help of the Australian government.
In the words of International Paralympic Committee President, Andrew Parsons, this year's Paralympians gave the world confidence, happiness and hope, breaking records, winning hearts, opening minds and changing lives.
The ceremony celebrated youth with performances including break dancing and BMX to roller skating and choir singing.
But the highlight was the erection of the "City Where Differences Shine", a model city landscape of Tokyo, where parading athletes affixed badge-like mirrors onto a replica Sky Tree lying on the ground before the tower was lifted to face Tokyo's night sky.
Among those watching the ceremony in attendance was Japan's Crown Prince Akishino.
The world's greatest athletes now start the arduous journey of preparing for the Paris Games scheduled to kick off on July 26th, 2024.
Han Seong-woo, Arirang News.