Tokyo2020 – “Life Must Go On”


Date: 24/03/2020
Tokyo2020 postponed to 2021
Disappointment, Relief & Hope

The Tokyo2020 Games are postponed.

For some a disappointment. For many a relief. But for all of us this was not a surprise.

The developments of the Corona virus and the cancellation of event after event led even to the surprise why the Games were not postponed already in an earlier phase.

Today, 2 days after the announcement there are many questions. First of all, from the athletes, but also from fans across the globe. And for sure also in the IOC and the organizing Tokyo2020 committee. Time will tell when the Tokyo2020 Games will be held, but it is clearly mentioned that it will not after the summer of 2021. As if in times like this you can be sure of anything.

One thing is for sure; the Tokyo2020 will be the Olympic Games of Hope. Hope of a future where we can master the spread of viruses and where we can join each other again in joy and celebration.

But is it the first time that the Games are postponed?

No, the Olympics were cancelled in a few occasions. And in some cases the continuation of the Games were at risk. Let’s dive a little bit into these moments in Olympic history. We have time anyway…

boxing athens 2004

The Games that were cancelled.

1)The Summer Games of 1916 (Berlin)

The organisation of the 1916 Olympic Games was given to Berlin, Germany. Berlin was selected as host city in 1912 and defeated bids from Alexandria, Brussels, Amsterdam, Budapest and Cleveland. After the outbreak of World War I in 1914 the preparations for the Games in Berlin continued as normal. Initially it was hoped that the war would be over in a short period of time. But in January 1916 it became clear that the Games could not be held due to the continuation of the war. Remarkably the Games were never officially cancelled. To put it stronger; Pierre de Coubertin made the decision to perpetuate the number of the Berlin Olympic Games in history. “Even if the Games did not take place, their number still remains”.

The IOC, that moved its headquarters from France to Lausanne (in neutral Switzerland) did meet for the first time again in 2019. Antwerp was selected as host city for the first After-War Games; in 1920. Germany were not allowed to participate (until 1928)

2)The Summer & Winter Games of 1940 (Tokyo & Sapporo)

Twenty years later, in 1936, Japan won the 1940 bids for the summer Olympics (Tokyo) as well as the winter Olympics (Sapporo). It was a surprise choice making Japan the first non-Western city to win an Olympic bid.

A series of War driven events, starting in 1937 with Japan invading China, led to an increasingly number of countries that demanded a different host city. They forwarded the idea of a boycott. In 1938 as preparations continued, the organizers were asked to build the venues from wood. The metals were needed at the war front (..). In the months that came further war developments made it impossible to host the Games and the Olympics were announced forfeiture in July 1938. Koichi Kido, the main advisor of the emperor Hirohito said: “When peace reigns again in the Far East, we can then invite the Games to Tokyo and take that opportunity to prove to the people of the world the true Japanese spirit”

In 1964 this became reality.

 3)The Summer & Winter Games of 1944 (London & Cortina d’Ampezzo)

In 1939, just two months (!) before the breakout of World War II, London was selected to host the 1944 Summer Games. And the winter Olympics were awarded to Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy. The war that escalated quickly led to the logical cancellation of both Games.

The IOC still celebrated their fiftieth anniversary at its headquarters in neutral Switzerland. And in the prisoner of war camp in Woldenberg (Poland) were granted permission to organize an unofficial PW Olympics in the summer of 1944. But that was about it with regards to Olympic activities..

After the victory of the Allied forces London got the chance to host the 1948 Olympics and St. Moritz was chosen for its neutrality. And fortunately, at those games only the smaller problems occurred; Norwegian skiers had to borrow skis from the Americans, the Antwerp Olympic flag (1920) was stolen and ice hockey competition saw two US teams arrive to compete.

Cortina d’Ampezzo had to wait until 1956 to host the Games. And will do so again in 2026!

The Games that were almost cancelled.

So, the only reason so far of cancellation of Olympic Games were World Wars. But in some cases, the start or continuation of the Games were also at risk. But everytime  the IOC statement of “The Games Must Go On” was put in action.

In 1968 10 days before the Olympic Games in Mexico started there was huge drama. After a summer of intensive demonstrations protesting the Olympics the government decided to brutally intervene with armed forces. Leading to the death of officially 44 but unofficially between 300 & 400. The Games continued as if nothing had happened.

In 1972 the Munich Games were at the verge of being stopped due to the terrorist attack on the Israeli team. The hostage incident (The Munich Massacre) did take the life of the 11 Israelis team and the 3 terrorists. After 35 hours (..) and a memorial ceremony in the Olympic Stadium the Games continued. But some athletes, officials and other people left the Games due to the incidents.

In 1996 during the Atlanta Games Eric Rudolph planted a bomb in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, killing two and injuring more than 110 others. Also, here the adagio The Games Must Go On was applied.

In 2013, a head of the Sochi Games in Russia several suicide bombers in Volgograd killed 36 people. The Games continued.

Not only terrorist attacks did put the Games at risk, the outbreak of the ZIKA virus did that prior to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Although some athletes chose not to come (especially golf players) the Games went on and had no negative effect from the ZIKA virus.

Tokyo 2020 – The Games of Hope

The recent announcement of IOC president Bach made it clear, no cancellation, just a postponement. To 2021. The exact dates will be announced in a later stage.

For many, especially the athletes, this has huge consequences. First are the qualifications. The IOC immediately reassured the athletes that already qualified for Tokyo that this would remain the case. As for the non-qualifiers new procedures and qualification tournaments will be organized.

For us as, Fan of the Games the impact is far less. Although not zero. Many of us have booked their flights, their accommodation and entrance tickets. For that last part I cannot imagine that the tickets bought would not be extended. Although some events might be in a different venue leading to some issues. And for the other parts like flight and accommodation this will lead probably to a loss of money. But hey, a loss of money compared to a loss of your health is a no brainer.

The Tokyo2020 Games in 2021 is already historical for all the reasons mentioned above. But it will be even more historical when it will become the Games of Hope. A celebration of the success of the human race to have beaten the Corona virus. Let’s all hope that the impact, especially when it comes to the lives of our fellow citizens, our family and ourselves, is as minimal as possible.

For that we can have our own impact by sticking to the social distancing and other health rules that most countries have set out.

We just have to keep up the (Olympic) spirit and focus on what’s most important now, our family and friends, our health. “Life Must Go On”

Let’s hope this is over soon.

In the meantime; Be safe. Stay safe.


Foto door Helena Lopes op
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