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Boxing: The cost of cancelling Olympic Games over history

PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 July 2020

The Olympic rings at Stratford, east London

The Olympic rings at Stratford, east London

PA Wire/PA Images

In the history of the modern era Olympic Games, summer and winter, three tournaments have failed to go ahead as casualties of war.

Here we look at the implications for the would-be boxing competitors in those times.

The 1916 summer Games were due to be held in Berlin, then capital of the German Empire, but were cancelled due to the First World War.

Berlin had to wait a further 20 years until 1936 to host the summer Games, which were often described as the “Hitler Games”.

The Winter Olympics first took place in 1924 in Chamonix, France and have therefore been subject to two cancellations.

The 1940 summer Games were due to be staged in Tokyo – the first time they were to be held in Asia with all previous summer Games held in either mainland Europe or the United States of America.

But the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 led eventually to the Empire of Japan forfeiting the Games on July 16, 1938.

They were then moved to Helsinki, but never took place due to the outbreak of the Second World War. Helsinki later staged the summer Games in 1952 and Tokyo did likewise in 1964.

London should have hosted the summer Games in 1944, but they never took place due to the Second World War, however England’s capital city had only to wait a further four years until 1948 to stage what has often been described as “the Austerity Games”.

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Boxing was due to be contested in all three of those summer Games which did not take place, although it was excluded from the 1912 Stockholm Olympics as Swedish law banned boxing at that time!

So, the timescale was thus – boxing took place at the summer Games of 1908, but not again until Antwerp in 1920.

It was held in Berlin in 1936, but not again until London in 1948, and these huge 12-year lapses would have completely denied previous medal winners and indeed almost all competitors from those eras generally from participating in subsequent summer Games.

It was a devastating situation for those who would normally have been able to ply their trade in the ring in 1916, 1940 and 1944, and of course, for all other sportsmen and women, had they been given the opportunity to do so in their particular sports.

Without doubt, would-be Olympians were fighting for themselves, their families and their countries during those times and no doubt Olympic glory and medals were the least of their many concerns and issues then.

It is unlikely any mainstream training regimes would have been necessary, or indeed undertaken, given the relatively early decisions to cancel those three Games.

Decisions to cancel the Olympic Games, summer and winter, in peace time are very difficult ones and not taken lightly.

But the impact of those decisions and by some countries to boycott certain Games that did take place have profound impacts on those who would have competed at them, but were denied the opportunity to do so through no individual fault of their own.

The fact they didn’t have the chance to demonstrate their skills to the world, surely there can be no greater sporting disappointment ever than that?

The decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic would not have been taken lightly, but the safety and well-being of all those who have intentions to compete is paramount along with the wider interests of humanity.


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