A wish for Tokyo from the former staff of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games

I am hoping that I may speak for all of us from the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (SOCOG 2000) that our hearts and tears are with Tokyo and our world... as we find that the XXXII Summer Olympics 2020 and the 2020 Paralympics will almost definitely not go ahead on 24 July 2020.

Let us pray that the IOC and Tokyo can agree to a goal date for our world, a date on which our humanity and our Earth will be fit in health and sound in economy.

Some History

To my knowledge, there have been only three other complete cancellations of the modern day Summer Olympics:

  1. 1916, Berlin, due to WWI

  2. 1940, TOKYO, due to WWII (although IOC tried to get it to Helsinki but this was also cancelled)

  3. 1944, London, due to WWII

And there have been two for Winter Olympics:

  1. 1940, Sapporo/Garmisch-Partenkirchen under the auspices of Empire of Japan . . Nazi Germany

  2. 1944, Cortina d'Ampezzo of Italy

Now we fight another World War of a very different kind.

Oh Tokyo!!

You might find it interesting to read in Wikipedia how Koichi Kido, a leader who would be instrumental in the surrender of Japan in 1945, announced the forfeiture of Tokyo's 1940 Olympic Games in the Summer on 16 July, 1938 -- two years out-- by saying

"When peace reigns again in the Far East, we can then invite the Games to Tokyo and take that opportunity to prove to the people of the world the true Japanese spirit."

Do cancelled Host Cities get to have the Games again?

As far as being able to host the Summer Olympics for their city some time later, Berlin would host theirs 20 years later in 1936 under Nazi Germany. Helsinki would host theirs 12 years later in 1952 -- and Tokyo would host theirs 24 years later in 1964. London would have two more goes -- 4 years later in 1948 and 68 years later in 2012. Having also hosted the Olympics in 1908, London is the only city to have hosted the Games three times.

For the Winter Olympics, Sapporo (Japan) would host theirs 32 years later in 1972. Cortina d'Ampezzo of Italy would host theirs 12 years later in 1956 (the same year as Melbourne Summer Olympics).

(Note: Japan would also host a Winter Games in Nagano in 1998, right before our 2000 Games in Sydney).

We pray for Tokyo and the Olympics and Paralympics (and the world) that the postponement will not be as long as it has been in the past.

SOCOG (Sydney) in Comparison

At an equivalent time as Tokyo is now, four months to go for Sydney -- 15 May 2000--we were full swing in contingency planning (planning for all types of unexpected events). I can vouch that our committee had neither the events of 11 September 2001 nor the Covid-19 virus in our sights.

  • We were building up staff exponentially day by day to what would become 3000 staff, 60,000 volunteers and 70,000 contractors at Games time.

  • We had all of our 40+ Venue Managers in place, and their functions were beginning to populate the teams in the SOCOG Headquarters, near Central Station in Sydney (now the University of Technology Sydney).

  • We were "rigorously debating" the final allocations in each venue amongst the IOC, Press, Broadcasters, Sponsors, Athletes, Staff and Spectators: allocations of seats (the most rigorous), and space, accreditation, tickets, radios, mobiles, PCs, cars, vehicle permits . . . and many other things. I especially enjoyed the allocation of golf cart debates

  • By this date, some of our teams had already moved out from HQ to their actual venues -- notably the Olympic Stadium Team. All of our venue teams would move out on 1 August 2000. This corresponds to roughly 12 June 2020 for Japan, and this is just six weeks away.

  • We were in final venue construction for all of our sites, moving towards a very different sort of "lockdown" date than the one we are experiencing now. This "lockdown" would be the date that the final construction of a venue was complete and the venue declared safe for all to enter.


The Games has always meant so much to billions of people as the World comes together in one of the most extraordinary pageant of athletics, art, advancing technology and peace that we humans can assemble.

I'll never forget being in the SOCOG HQ Command Centre watching the Greek athletes enter the Stadium for the Parade of Honour on the night of 15 September 2000. Tears were rolling down my cheek.

This would become one of the most beautiful world events of my life -- with Berlin 9 November 1989 being the most extraordinary one (having lived there when I was a kid 1977-1979 inside the wall in West Berlin).

Four years of my life and so many more for some of my colleagues were given passionately to the Sydney 2000 Games.

Now, as we all go into isolation and a "lockdown" of such a different type than the ones we did to ensure our venues were safe, may we pray for the recovery of our world's health and economy.

May we pray

May we pray that the Olympics and Paralympics will return officially as soon as possible, signalling that our world has returned to its amazing splendour.

May we pray that at this future time, we are far more healthy, more peaceful and more gracious to and accepting of all nations, ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, genders, abilities (mental and physical), ethnicities, and socio-economic status/classes.

May we pray especially that we as a planet are more reverential to Mother Earth and all that She has given us.

I hope I speak for all of us at the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games that our hearts are with the Tokyo Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020).

Tokyo, we wish you hope, unity, health and peace as we all forge through these days to come.

(Katharine McLennan, Head of Venue Operations Planning for the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games, 1996-2000)

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