Turning the Clock Back to the Postponed Olympics of the Past

Turning the Clock Back to the Postponed Olympics of the Past
Japan has postponed the games due to the coronavirus pandemic, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Another fallout of the coronavirus pandemic? Japan has postponed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Here are three other times the world’s biggest sports event was postponed

Sahana Iyer
March 26 , 2020
04 Min Read

The Olympic games, the biggest sporting event in the world, commands the attention of millions of viewers every four years. On March 24, 2020, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee released a joint statement declaring the postponement of the summer Olympics in Japan, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This move was made post a conference call between the country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the President of IOC Thomas Bach, discussing the dire situation across the globe.

The games will not be hosted later than the summer of 2021, however, and will have a significant impact on the nation as $12.6 billion have already been invested in the event. 10,000 athletes and 600,000 foreign spectators were expected at the event.

Various countries stressed on the delay of the Olympics due to the spread of COVID19, with Canada and Australia declaring withdrawal of their athletes from the games.

This is not the first change of dates in the history of the Olympic games. World War I and II had led to the cancellation of the same in the 1900s. Let’s wind the clock back, shall we? 

Parade of Turners at the opening of the Deutsches Stadion in 1913

1916 Summer Olympics in Berlin

1916 saw bids from impressive cities like Alexandria, Amsterdam, Cleveland, Budapest, and Brussels—Berlin came out on top. This was in the middle of the devastating World War I. The war had begun in July 1914, and preparations went on in the German Empire as no one expected the war to last post the end of the year.

So, a stunning new facility called Deutsches Stadion was created and inaugurated in 1913. This would be the central stadium for the games. However, the war carried on till 1918, leading to the cancellation of the Olympics. 

Germany received the honour of hosting the games again in 1936. Unfortunately, the games under Hitler’s reign are remembered for promoting the Nazi regime. A new structure replaced the Deutsches Stadion, which was demolished, and acted as the main stadium during the 1936 Summer Olympics.     

Poster of the 1940 Olympics in Japan 

1940 Summer and Winter Olympics in Japan

Japan was a surprising choice when the nation got the opportunity to host the 1940 Olympics as it was the first Asian country to ever do so. This was a time when the host country would be responsible for both summer and winter games. Tokyo was chosen as the city for the summer games and Sapporo for winter. 

The second Sino-Japanese war in 1937, however, led to the demand of steel for combat. Due to this, military leaders insisted that sports venues be created with wood. The hosts eventually had to give up their rights, losing the position of summer hosts to Helsinki. The city in Finland was the runner-up at the time of bidding. St. Moritz in Switzerland then became the winter hosts; a dispute passing the title to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria.

In September of 1939, when Germany invaded Poland starting WWII, the Olympics stood cancelled altogether. Tokyo remained the first Asian city to host the games even in 1964 when it regained the opportunity, while Sapporo hosted the winter games in 1972. 

The crowd at the 1948 Olympics hosted in London

1944 Summer and Winter games in London and Cortina d’Ampezzo

Athens, Budapest, Helsinki, Montreal, Lausanne, Detroit, and Rome were in the running for the 1944 games, which was eventually given to London. This happened right before WWII took over priorities. Cortina d’ Ampezzo in Italy got the title of winter host. 

Unfortunately by 1944, WWII was in complete force, only ending the following year. Due to the war, the games were cancelled again.  

London received the opportunity to host the 1948 Summer games, while it was recovering from war. St. Moritz hosted the 1948 Winter games and Cortina d’Ampezzo, the 1956 Winter Olympics.

Other than these major cancellations, there have been minor delays in prior Olympics. A terror attack during the 1972 Munich Olympics led to the postponement of the games for one day. 

There have been minor delays in events in previous Olympics due to weather changes as well. 


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