Olympic Games that never happened

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The coronavirus pandemic has far-reaching consequences to the sports world for the year 2020. Spectator events, like the widely-followed National Basketball Association, the major leagues such as the NFL, the ATP-sanctioned tournaments and football hostilities that draw millions of followers worldwide, will have to be played  in a “bubble”  and limited crowds under the new normal. The same is true, locally. The drive of athletes has been apparently far different as they play minus the wild cheers from the bleachers.

The biggest casualty of COVID-19 in the sports community for the year is Tokyo 2020. The games were originally set July 22 until Aug. 9. With all its world-class venues completed ahead of time, and marketing commitments looking promising, organizers were hoping against hope, optimistic up to the last minute that the virus would just go away. And they finally decided to reset them next year. Hopefully.

The posters of 1916 Berlin Olympics, 1940 Tokyo Olympics, 1944 Games and the shelved Tokyo Games

The 2020 edition is actually the second Olympic hosting by Japan to be shelved. The first was in 1940 when things were disrupted as World War II broke out. The 1944 Summer Games with the United Kingdom (London and Cardiff, Wales) as host were also put on hold. The world was still reeling from the devastation of the war.  Four years later, in 1948, the Games opened its curtains in London.

The first Olympics postponement was in 1916. It was supposed to be Berlin’s moment to shine. But World War I, which started in 1914, stole the show from Germany. The war ended in 1918.

Fourth time in Asia

With the Summer Games returning to Japan in 2021 after more than half a century, or 57 years to be exact, it will only be the fourth time that the Olympics will be staged in Asia. Seoul was host in 1988; Beijing’s turn came in 2008, and again Tokyo, originally, in 2020.

Twenty-four years later following the Games’ non-holding in 1940, Tokyo finally hosted its first Olympics in 1964, a boost it badly needed to hasten its economic recovery after the war, especially the devastation brought about by two nuclear bombs that crippled the country.  How it emerged as an economic power post-World War II is a miracle in itself.

The 1964 Olympic campaign of the 47-member Philippine contingent, with 40 male and 7 female athletes, was highlighted by the silver medal finish of boxing featherweight Anthony Villanueva. The boxer delivered the country’s first medal since 1932, when his own father, Jose, a bantamweight, won a bronze for the Philippines at the Los Angeles Games. The younger Villanueva lost to Soviet Union’s Stanislav Stepashkin in a 3-2 decision for the gold.

Villanueva’s silver was the lone Olympic medal won by the Philippines in 24 years until the drought was snapped in 1988 in Seoul, where Negrosanon Leopoldo Serrantes of Candoni posted a bronze finish in the light flyweight division.

Serrantes was the lone Filipino medalist.

His triumph overshadowed Arianne Cerdena’s golden finish in bowling that was played as a demonstration sport. In short, the country’s first-ever gold in the Summer Olympics was not counted in the official medal tally. But Cerdena, the world tenpin bowling champ at that time, went on to win the “Female World Bowler for 1988” award given by the World Bowling Writers’ group.

The third Olympics in Asia was hosted by Beijing in 2008. It was a cultural showcase of sorts with Chinese organizers putting their best foot forward. The Philippines, which went home empty-handed, had a lean contingent composed of 15 athletes. Occasional lightning protests by a handful of placard-bearing activists telling the world of China’s human rights record did not dampen the spirit of the Games. But more controversies, before, during and after the Olympics, were raised against China over the alleged use by its athletes of performance-enhancing substances. – NWI