Olympics History and disruption

All being well the 2020 Summer Olympic Games will go ahead in Japan from 24 July to 8 August.

At the moment the IOC, the games’ governing body is still saying it intends to go ahead, although the relay journey of the Olympic Torch from Greece is expected to be scaled back amid concerns about the current global Covid-19 pandemic.

If the games do have to be delayed, it will not be the first time that there has been disruption surrounding the event.

Here’s a little Olympic history.

The first celebration of the modern Olympic Games took place in its ancient birthplace – Greece in 1896. The founder was Pierre, baron de Coubertin, and first president of the IOC (International Olympic Committee).

The second Olympics in Paris in 1900 was somewhat overshadowed by the World Exhibition and suffered from being poorly organised as a result. The next Games, originally scheduled for Chicago in 1904, were relocated to Louisiana to be combined with the centenary of the U.S. acquisition of the Louisiana Territory.

There was another change of location in 1908 when the Games, originally scheduled for Italy, were relocated to London because Italy was beset by organizational and financial obstacles.

London was the first Games to have an opening ceremony featuring a parade of athletes, although this, too was beset by controversy because the Finnish team was protesting Russian rule, the US and the British fell out when a US athlete refused to dip the US flag to the king, Edward VII and many Irish athletes refused to participate as subjects of Britain.

After the 1912 Games there were no further events until 1920, after the end of the First World War, when the next Games were held in Belgium. The defeated countries of World War I—Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey—were not invited. The new Soviet Union chose not to attend.

In 1924 it was back to Paris and there was a relatively peaceful run until 1936, when the Games were held in Berlin.  It was a politically-charged atmosphere as the Nazi party led by Adolf Hitler had been in power in Germany for three years and although the IOC had extracted a promise from the German Government that it would be politics-free, in fact this promise was not honoured with stadiums draped in Nazi banners and symbols.

Again, war interrupted the four-year cycle and the next Games were held in London in 1948. Again, defeated powers, this time Germany and Japan, were not invited and the Soviet Union declined to participate, although other communist countries did attend, including Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Poland.

For the first time the Games moved to the Southern Hemisphere in 1956, to Australia, since when they have been held all over the globe, from Japan to South Africa to Brazil.

In 1972 politics reared their ugly head again when the games were in Munich during which eight Palestinian terrorists invaded the Olympic Village on September 5 and killed two members of the Israeli team, holding nine other Israelis hostage and demanding the release of 200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

In 1980, the Games were held in Moscow for the first time, prompting another boycott, the largest boycott in the history of the Olympic movement this time by 60 countries urged on by the USA because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Since then there has been little disruption to the four-yearly event.