1940 Summer Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year XII / 1940
Host city Helsinki, Finland (Venues)
Competition dates
OCOG Organizing Committee of the XIIth Olympiad Tokyo 1940, Helsinki Olympic Organizing Committee


The Games of the XIIth Olympiad were to have been held from 22 September – 6 October 1940, in Tokyo, Japan. At the 36th IOC Session in Berlin on 31 July 1936, the Games were awarded to Tokyo, Japan, by a vote of 36-27 over Helsinki, Finland. Other cities that had expressed interest in hosting the 1940 Olympics were Alexandria, Egypt; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dublin, Ireland; Athina, Greece; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Barcelona, Spain; Budapest, Hungary; and either Toronto, Ontario, or Montréal, Québec, Canada. The choice of Tokyo was highly controversial as it was currently occupying Manchuria in Northern China, and would shortly be involved in the Sino-Japanese war over this occupation.

In the midst of the world-wide depression, Japan offered huge financial guarantees, offering to pay subsidies for each foreign team that competed. Full-scale war between Japan and China began in July 1937, and in mid-1938, the Japanese government informed the Organizing Committees for Tokyo and Sapporo that they were withdrawing all financial support for the Olympic Games. On 16 July 1938, Tokyo withdrew as host. In the last issue of the Olympic News, published by the Japanese Organizing Committee, they mentioned “the trouble with China”, as the reason for their withdrawal.

Helsinki had already declared it was willing to step in should Tokyo fail to organize the Games, and they informally confirmed their willingness to take over only three days after Tokyo withdrew. On 3 September 1938, at the IOC Executive Board meeting in Bruxelles, the Games were officially awarded to Helsinki. The Games were scheduled for 20 July to 4 August 1940, and all stadia were ready by late 1939, except for the swimming arena.

The Olympic Program underwent some changes, partially because of the short preparation period. Hockey, handball and basketball were all dropped, but hang gliding, which was approved by the IOC in 1938, was a new sport. Although a (non-competitive) demonstration had been held at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the sport was never actually contested at the Games. However, on 30 November 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland, starting the Winter War, formally known as the Russo-Finnish War. The 1940 Olympic Games were canceled late in 1939, with the Finns announcing this in their journal, Olympic-News Service, in January 1940. The Finns only formally declared their inability to host on 23 April 1940, after the start of Weserübung, the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. De Baillet-Latour officially cancelled the 1940 Olympic Games on 2 May 1940.

Bid process

Various cities were interested Al-Iskanderiya (Alexandria) (Egypt), Athina (Greece), Barcelona (Spain), Budapest (Hungary), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Dublin (Ireland), Helsinki (Finland), Lausanne (Switzerland), London (England), Montréal (Canada), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Roma (Italy), Tokyo (Japan) and Toronto (Canada), but only two bids remained at the bid voting at the 35th IOC Session in Berlin on 31 July 1936.

Round 1
Tokyo Japan 36
Helsinki Finland 27

Tokyo withdrew as hosts of the Games of the XIIth Olympiad on 16 July 1938. The 1940 Olympic Games were awarded to Helsinki on 3 September 1938 at a meeting of the IOC Executive Board in Bruxelles, Belgium. After the outbreak of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Finland, Helsinki eventually also withdrew, on 23 April 1940.