Why the now-postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics is supposedly ‘cursed’

A 40-year-curse strikes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which is now officially postponed, according to Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso. In an interview with CNN, Aso said the postponement comes as no surprise as the Olympics seem to be halted by abrupt global affairs every 40 years.

The ‘curse’ supposedly began in 1940 when the Olympics, also set in Japan at that time, had to be cancelled due to World War II. In 1980, the Moscow Olympics turned pale when 65 nations (including Japan, the U.S., and China) pulled out their athletes from the Games to boycott the then-Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

On March 24, 2020, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was originally set to take place from July 24 to August 9, will have to be rescheduled to 2021. This is the first time in its 124-year modern history for the Olympics to be delayed during a time of peace.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is also the fourth time for Olympics to be cancelled—following postponements in 1916, 1940, and 1944 (all due to war). It would be the third Olympics to be linked to a virus outbreak—the 1920 Belgian Olympics happened during the last phase of the 1918 influenza pandemic, while the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro happened amid the outbreak of the Zika virus across Latin America.

Weeks prior to the announcement, the Tokyo Games organizers and the International Olympic Committee were subject to pressure to decide whether to pursue or delay the games amid the Covid-19 global pandemic. Australia and Canada had already expressed intention not to join the Olympics this year, while the U.S. and the U.K. have hinted their desire to postpone the games.


Editor’s Note: Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso has issued an apology for his comments about the Tokyo Olympics.

Cover photo: The Olympic Rings Monument (from Tokyo 2020 social media page)