The Olympics that never were – the 1916 games in Germany


Ever since the Olympic Games were created in 1896 after the legendary days in classical Greece, they have been hosted every four years. For five tournaments in a row there was no issue with hosting, but in 1916 they were canceled, becoming the Olympic Games that never were.

Choosing a host city

As with all Olympics, the host city is chosen years ahead, and Berlin had been selected to host the 1916 games back in 1912. That gave Germany four years to prepare Berlin to host the Olympics, but few had predicted the outbreak of war which would put an end to the Olympics in 1916. The Deutsches Stadion was built to entertain 18,000 spectators, and in 1913 it was complete, with the construction being celebrated by the release of 10,000 pigeons.

Three years after the celebration of the Olympic stadium it would remain empty after the cancelation of the whole competition. War was upon the world and truces would not be formed for the benefit of sports.

Outbreak of war

World War One broke out in 1914, and the conflict rumbled on for four years until peace finally was found in 1918. Berlin was scheduled to host the games in 1916, but the German Empire at the center of the conflict there was no way the Olympics could proceed. The world was split, and several countries had just spent the last two years trying to wipe out as many enemies as possible, the war couldn’t stop for a party.

The disappointment

Germany had taken the role of hosting the Olympics seriously and had delivered on their promise to bring a state-of-the-art stadium to host track and field events. The Germans had hired an esteemed American track star to train their Olympic hopefuls to make their athletes compete with the best in the world.

Germany was planning to amaze the world and show everyone they understood how important sport had become. The 1916 Olympic Games was an opportunity for Germany to show off to the world their prestige, but their efforts fell flat following the outbreak of WWI.

Hoping for the games

Following the start of World War One, the 1916 Olympic Games were not canceled immediately, and there was still a chance Berlin would host them. The creator of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, believed that in hosting the games the Germans would stop their aggressive behavior felt across the world.

Coubertin believed allowing Germany to host the games despite the outbreak of war would bring an end to things, but it became clear that wasn’t happening. Germany said they would only welcome their allies to their games, but American cities sensed weakness. They asked Coubertin to move the Olympics stateside, but being caught in the middle of a power struggle ultimately forced Coubertin to cancel them.

The Olympic Games came pretty close to being hosted in Berlin during WWI, but in the end, there was too much at stake, and they were canceled. This gave Berlin, and Germany, the unfortunate honor of being the first hosts to have their games abandoned.