The Olympics have been cancelled before — check out photos from the Inter-Allied Games that replaced the 1916 Olympic Games

National WWI Museum and MemorialWorld War I forced the cancellation of the 1916 Olympics, but athletes from the US, UK, France, and more competed in the Inter-Allied Games in 1919.
  • The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed by a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • While the move was historic, it certainly wasn’t unprecedented, as the Olympics have been cancelled on three different occasions.
  • In 1916, World War I forced the cancellation of the Olympics for the first time, but the Allied powers held an Olympics-like competition three years later.
  • In 1919, athletes from the US, UK, Australia, France, and more gathered outside of Paris to compete in the Inter-Allied Games.
  • Check out photos, documents, and memorabilia from the one-time event courtesy of the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In March, the International Olympic Committee announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be postponed by a full calendar year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the decision has rattled the entire sporting world, it certainly wasn’t an unprecedented move, as the Olympics have been cancelled on three different occasions before 2020.

Tokyo 2020Getty/Charly Triballeau

As World War I ravaged Europe in 1916 and pulled many of the world’s powers into conflict, organisers were forced to cancel the modern Olympics for the first time. But after a sudden ceasefire in late 1918 brought an end to the fighting in France, the opportunity for a pseudo replacement for the Olympics arose.

From June 22 t0 July 6 of 1919, athletes from Allied nations – including the US, UK, Australia, France, and more – gathered outside of Paris to partake in the Inter-Allied Games. Hundreds of participants competed across 26 different sports in front of more than 500,000 spectators to help boost morale after all the devastation and sacrifice of the war.

The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, collected artifacts from the one-time event for an exhibition it hosted in 2012, and you can check out photos, documents, and memorabilia from the Inter-Allied Games below, courtesy of the museum:


Welcome to the Inter-Allied Games, a two-week competition organised by the Allied powers of WWI in place of the 1916 Olympics.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Then known as the Great War, WWI forced the cancellation of the 1916 Summer Olympics that were set to take place in Berlin.

Erich Engel/ullstein bild via Getty Images

But once the fighting stopped in Europe, the Allied powers organised the one-of-a-kind sporting event to boost morale and fill the void left by the cancelled Olympics three years prior.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Athletes from various Allied nations — including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, the UK, the US and more — competed in 1919’s Inter-Allied Games.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

More than 500,000 spectators gathered outside of Paris over the two weeks.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

The Games’ major events took place at Pershing Stadium, a 20,000-seat arena that enclosed nine acres of field.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

The stadium cost $US100,000 to build.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

But, somewhat surprisingly, it only took a few months to construct.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

The Inter-Allied Games’ equivalent of an “Olympic Village” was a series of tents divided up by country.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

The Games kicked off with an Olympics-style opening ceremony on June 22.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

More than 1,500 people participated in the Inter-Allied Games kick-off event.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

And, of course, the press was there to capture it all.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Then, hundreds of athletes were ready to begin competing across 26 different sports.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Including golf…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… rugby…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… fencing…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… baseball …

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… water polo …

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… equestrian …

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… basketball…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… soccer…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… boxing…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… wrestling…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… swimming…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

…track and field…

National WWI Museum and Memorial

… and more.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Women were not allowed to compete, even though the Olympics had opened up certain competitions to women back in 1900.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Like the Olympics, the Inter-Allied games awarded medals to first-, second-, and third-place finishers.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Some noteworthy individuals earned participatory ribbons (pictured below), while other all-star athletes found their way to the podium.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Multiple previous and soon-to-be Wimbledon champions participated in the tennis events, including France’s Andre Gobert (middle-right) and Australia’s Randolph Lycett and Pat O’Hara Wood (middle-left).

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Future world heavyweight champion Gene Tunney boxed on behalf of the United States.

ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

American swimmer Norman Ross won gold in the 100-metre, 1,500-metre, and 400-metre freestyle — setting a world record in the latter event. Ross would win three Olympic gold medals and set 13 world records during his career.

Bob Thomas/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images

On the final day of the Inter-Allied Games, the stadium was officially gifted to France, and flags were lowered to honour those who died during the war.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

And while the Olympics resumed the following summer in Antwerp, Belgium, the Inter-Allied Games served its own important role outside of athletics.

National WWI Museum and Memorial

“This was a world-class competition featuring some of the best athletes in the world,” National WWI Museum and Memorial Senior Curator Doran Cart said. “Perhaps more importantly, the Inter-Allied Games served as a vehicle for healing the wounds from the most catastrophic war to that time in human history.”

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Now check out 33 stunning photos of Simone Biles dominating the competition:

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

33 jaw-dropping photos of Simone Biles, the most dominant athlete alive

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.