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When were the Olympic Games Cancelled in History?

Professor of Financial Economics and Part-time Value Investor, Transfin.
Mar 28, 2020 6:07 AM 2 min read

Olympian Trials

It was going to be a global spectacle. The first Olympic Games to be held outside Europe and North America, a sign of a globalising world and the emergence of Japan. But the 1940 Olympics never materialised.


The Show Won't Go On

This year’s Olympics has been cancelled in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Japan, the host country, will host the Games next year instead. But this isn’t the first time this has happened; the Olympics has been cancelled three other times since the first modern Games in 1896.



The 1916 Olympics was the first to be cancelled. The German Empire was to be host – it even built a 30,000-seat stadium in Berlin for the spectacle. But the First World War derailed the Games. In the next Games, held in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920, Germany became the first country to be actively disinvited.


#2 and #3

Fast forward 16 years and the Games returned to Berlin – but this time under the Nazi flag. Japanese athletes swept the Games, and Japan was poised to host the next tournament four years later. Instead, facing international criticism over its invasion of China and atrocities committed there, Tokyo forfeited its rights in 1937.


The 1940 games were then rebooked for Helsinki, Finland (the winter games were to be held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany). But then the Nazis invaded Poland, World War Two began, and the rest is history.


Both games scheduled during the War – 1940 and 1944 (supposed to be hosted in London) – were cancelled. The first post-War Games were hosted in London – but German and Japanese athletes were banned.


Now, for the first time in eight decades, the Olympics has been again cancelled, for the fourth time in history. Only this time, there is no world war going on.


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