The road to hosting the Summer Olympics in Japan has been full of twists and turns. The Tokyo Olympics of 1940 was cancelled. The Olympics have only been cancelled three times since their start in 1896: in 1916, 1940, and 1944, all during conflicts. The Games have survived political boycotts and terrorist events, but they were postponed for the first time in 2020 due to a pandemic. The 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were significant because they were the first in Asia, and they signalled Japan’s return to the global stage as a civilized and technologically advanced nation. The ‘Happy Olympics,’ as they were dubbed, were held in Tokyo in 1964.
After the triple disaster in 2011, attempts to market Tokyo 2020 as the “Recovery Olympics” garnered rather mixed reviews. Nonetheless, Japan’s plan for hosting sporting mega-events is based on stimulating investment in “new” industries like tourism, travel, sport, education, healthcare, and retirement. Tokyo managed to have a successful Olympics in 2021, despite the pandemic and hence it will be remembered as the “Recovery Olympics.”
The Olympic Games were cancelled but never rescheduled: A brief history about the cancellations of 1916, 1940 and 1944
The International Olympic Committee chose Berlin as the host city for the 1916 Summer Olympics in 1912. In the same year, Germany began construction of the Deutsches Stadion, which would serve as the principal venue. Unfortunately, just one month later, the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand sparked World War I. The IOC cancelled the 1916 games because Europe was torn apart, with Germany allied with Austria-Hungary and Italy against Britain, France, and Russia (and subsequently, the United States). The 1916 Olympics were scheduled to include several days of winter sports as well; the idea was later adopted for the first Winter Olympics in 1924.
There were further cancellations in 1940 and 1944 due to the war. The Summer Olympics of 1940 was scheduled to take place in Tokyo from September 21 to October 6, according to a 1936 resolution. In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War began, soon to be subsumed into the greater battle of World War II. Because of the escalating dispute, the IOC decided to relocate the games to Helsinki, Finland. However, the second world war officially began on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Soon after, the Games were cancelled. As the war progressed, it became clear that the 1944 Games would also be cancelled. They were scheduled to happen in London, which was bombarded constantly throughout the war. The next Olympics, which took place 3 years after the war in 1948, was held in London.
Tokyo and the 40-year curse
Even though the Olympics have survived decades of boycotts and bans, some feel they are cursed, especially while Japan is hosting. Taro Aso, Japan’s finance minister, lamented the possibility of the Olympics being cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in early March 2020. While Tokyo did eventually host the 1964 Olympics, it was tarnished by a boycott by North Korea, China, and Indonesia after the International Olympic Committee declined to allow some of their athletes to compete. It was also the first year that apartheid-era South Africa was barred from competing in the Olympics.
Despite its tumultuous past, Japan, which spent more than $10 billion on preparations for this year’s Olympics, remained adamant about rescheduling the tournament for 2021. Perhaps the 40-year curse is no longer in effect.
Reasons why Tokyo Olympics would go down in history
Let’s have a look at things that makes this Olympics unique and special and which will make Tokyo Olympics 2020 go down in history:
- This is the first Olympics in history to be delayed and rescheduled rather than cancelled. The reason for the rescheduling was the coronavirus pandemic which has wreaked havoc all over the globe.
- Skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing, and karate are the four sporting events that were debuted at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This Olympics also featured a record-breaking 339 events spanning 33 sports, which has never transpired before in Olympic history.
- It was the first time that humanoid robots assisted on the field by recovering hammers and javelins thrown during field activities, allowing event organisers to speed up the games and enabling robots to engage with attendees.
- Recycled electrical gadgets were used to create Olympic medals. Japan is not the first country to build Olympic medals out of electronic devices, but it is the first time residents have given their equipment. As a consequence, 5000 awards were created from 78,985 tonnes of recycled electronics, which included computers, cameras, and about 6 million citizen-owned mobile phones.
- Another momentous occasion occurred when Quinn, Canada’s first openly transgender athlete, earned a gold medal for the country. Quinn is a member of Canada’s women’s soccer team and the first non-binary athlete to earn an Olympic medal.
- When it comes to gender equality, the Olympic events have developed over generations. In Tokyo in 2020, a record 48.8% of contestants were female. This is the greatest percentage ever, surpassing the previous mark of 45 per cent set at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Women made up a significant share of the IOC organising committee this year, not just in sports. Females made up 37.5 per cent of the whole IOC membership, as well as 33 per cent of the executive board. On the IOC commission, which advises the organisation on issues like ethics, science, and athletes, 47.8% of the members were women.
- The Norwegian female beach handball team has agreed to end the sexist dress culture in the Olympics after more than 15 years of campaigning. The team created history by sporting thigh-length shorts, just like their male counterparts, instead of the conventional bikini bottoms that women are required to wear throughout the tournament. The objection resulted in a final verdict during the European competition in July, and the players were fined 1,500 euros (£1,295) for violating the clothing code. The Games fraternity still has a long road ahead.
History’s inexorable waves frequently force events to shift around them. The 2020 Summer Olympic Games were originally slated for Tokyo but instead were pushed forward to 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time in the modern Olympic Games’ history, which started in Athens in 1896, that a scheduled Olympiad has been rescheduled. However, that is far from the only occasion the Olympic schedule has been altered due to global events.