When have the Olympic Games not been held on schedule?

Tokyo 2020: Ahead of the 2021 edition of the postponed Summer Games in the Japanese capital, Sportstar takes a look at all those times when the Olympics were called off, were postponed, and carried on under challenging circumstances.

Israel Olympic team murder

A view of the State Service at Lod airport in Tel Aviv on September 7, 1972 for ten members of the Israeli Olympic squad, who were murdered in Munich. Despite an event of such magnitude, the games took place as scheduled with the officials imposing a two-day suspension before carrying on as planned.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

When Tokyo 2020 was postponed, it was not the only sporting event to fall victim to the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Even other major tournaments such as the European Championships and Wimbledon were deferred and cancelled respectively in its wake.

Although the Olympic Games have been called off or rescheduled on other occasions in the past as well, last year saw it not being held due to a health hazard for the first time.


  • 1916 Summer Olympics (Berlin)

    It was the first Olympics, that was cancelled due to the outbreak of war. Germany beat the likes of Amsterdam, Brussels, Budapest, Alexandria and Cleveland to get the official bid of hosting the Games but after World War I broke out on July 14, organisers had no choice but to cancel the event.

    The Games returned to Berlin in 1936 but it was clouded with its own controversy as the city was then under the Nazi regime.

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  • 1940 Summer and Winter Olympics (Tokyo and Sapporo)

    Tokyo and Sapporo in Japan became the first non-Western cities to be selected to host the Olympics after being picked as hosts to the 1940 Summer and Winter Games respectively.

    However, before the plan could come to fruition, war broke out between Japan and China in 1937, which led to the Japanese Government forfeiting its right to host the Games.

    New host cities were chosen for the Games - Finland capital Helsinki for the Summer Games and the German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen for the Winter.

    Roadblocks didn’t seem to end for the 1940 Olympics as World War II broke out in September 1939 after the Nazi invasion of Poland, which led to the event being ultimately cancelled.
  • 1944 Summer and Winter Olympics

    The Summer and Winter Olympics of 1944 were scheduled to take place in London and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy respectively. These too were cancelled because of the Second World War.

London, Helsinki, Tokyo and Sapporo, all hosted subsequent Olympics after the Second World War.

London was the first city to host the Summer Olympics after the war in 1948. Helsinki hosted the 1952 Summer Games, Tokyo the 1964 Summer Olympics and Sapporo got the 1972 Winter Olympics.


There have been instances when the quadrennial showpiece wasn’t cancelled despite being presented with challenging circumstances.

  • The 1968 Summer Games

    Scheduled to be held in Mexico City, the buildup to the games was a tumultuous one. Just ten days before the opening day, the forces of the Mexican Government opened fire on unarmed student protestors, which saw many casualties. This is known as the 'Tlatelolco Massacre'.

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  • The 1972 Munich Summer Games

    Undoubtedly one of the most disturbing events associated with the Olympics, the 1972 Games saw the horrific murder of 12 Israeli athletes by assailants after they infiltrated the Israeli compound at the Olympic village in Munich. Despite an event of such magnitude, the games took place as scheduled with the officials imposing a two-day suspension before carrying on as planned.
  • The 1996 Atlanta Summer Games

    An early morning bomb blast during a free concert in the Centennial Olympic Park rocked the 1996 Atlanta Games, killing two people and leaving more than a hundred injured. Despite this shocking act of terrorism, the President of Atlanta’s Olympic Organising Committee, just hours later, announced that the Games would go on as scheduled citing “the spirit of the Olympic movement” should ensure the event does not stop.
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