Tokyo Cancelled: For The Second Time In History, Japan Has Been Compelled To Put A Hold On The Olympics

After much reluctance, the Japanese Prime Minister announced the decision

V. Kumara Swamy Published Mar 25, 2020 00:00:00 IST
Tokyo Cancelled: For The Second Time In History, Japan Has Been Compelled To Put A Hold On The Olympics Will Tokyo see the Games in 2021? (Photo: Flickr)

It was exactly 80 years ago that Tokyo was all set to host the Olympics, becoming the first Asian city to do so. It was a bold attempt to bring the games outside Europe and America for the first time. But it wasn't to be. A war that Japan waged against China in 1938 meant that many countries were opposed to it, demanding that the games be shifted. What’s more, there was opposition within Japan as many wanted to focus on the war.

It would have been a great loss to Japan's position in the world as a modern Asian nation—exactly the way it sought to project itself. But, ultimately, the pressure on the organizers of the Olympics mounted from within the country, and the city forfeited the Games later that year. It was referred to as 'The Missing Olympics'. Helsinki, Finland was chosen as the new venue. But the Games did not, in fact, take place in 1940 because of World War II.

Japan had prepared for two years for the 1940 games—infrastructure was put in place and the whole nation was galvanized. But, unfortunately, all of it came to naught. For all the Olympic glory it sought in 1940, Japan faced the ignominy of not being invited to the 1948 Olympic Games in London as it was one of the Axis powers that sided with Hitler's Germany.

Now comes the news that The Olympic Games 2020 that were supposed to start in Tokyo this July will be postponed. They may be held next year.

Is the city of Tokyo jinxed, then?

Not really. Tokyo, in 1964, became the first city in Asia to host the Olympic Games. It turned out to be a great success and Japan was able to showcase itself before the world as an advanced economic powerhouse.

tokyo-1964_032420074609.jpgThe Tokyo 1964 Olympics helped put Japan on the global map. (Image: Flickr)

The Olympics, in fact, are the ultimate platform to showcase a nation’s sporting talent. More often than not, winning a medal at the Games is considered the greatest achievement in the life of a sportsperson. Hosting the Olympics is a major step to project a country's powerful image on the world stage.

Sometimes, hosting has also served the purpose of the ruling government’s own eagerness to bolster its credentials and equating the Games with national pride. Much like what Adolf Hitler did during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and also what happened during the aborted 1940 Games.

The reason behind Japan's reluctance, earlier, to postpone the Games despite the raging coronavirus crisis could be partly economical, partly historical. But mostly, it is a perceived loss of prestige as a country, even though this time it is a rather extraordinary situation.

Tokyo may still pull it off the Games when they are held next year. It could have a unique first too. If they are held in 2021, the Olympics would be held for the first time ever in an odd year. But until then, the ghost of 1940 will perhaps haunt Tokyo.

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