Olympic Games postponed for the first time in history?

Fact checking

Đorđe Ivanović
Media headline
UNICEF Montenegro
09 April 2020

In late March, information emerged in the media that the Olympic Games would be postponed for the first time in history due to the coronavirus epidemic and they were expected to take place next spring. This news provoked a reaction from citizens who doubted its truth and questioned on social networks whether that was really happening for the first time in its history.

We, UNICEF's young reporters, noticed this information and the public reaction, and decided to investigate its correctness.

This information, within a span of several days, was published by a number of media and portals such as: “Kurir”, “Vijesti online”, “Blic”, “Sport”, Regional Information Center, N1 SRB, Sport Club, Sportal ... According to the date and time when it was published, and in terms of the content and attached images, we can assume that the above information originated from the Sport Club, and was then transmitted by other media, using segments of their article together with the headline "Olympic Games Postponed for the First Time in History".

The text quoted by our media mentions an agreement to postpone the Olympic Games between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee's president, Thomas Bach.

We checked this information on the official website of the Olympic Games and saw that the Olympic Games were indeed being postponed and were expected to take place in the summer of 2021. The postponement is not mentioned as something that is happening for the first time, although this information has also been published by the local media.


On YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn9AmhfvOp4, we also found a video of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stating that they were forced to postpone the Olympic Games because of coronavirus. His statement, the statement by Thomas Bach and the Olympic Games Minister Seiko Hashimoto have also been featured on relevant websites and channels, such as Global News, Olympic, NBC Sports, etc.

Research has shown that the Olympic Games were cancelled during World War I (1916) and World War II (1940 and 1944), but never postponed.

https://www.cbssports.com/olympics/news/coronavirus-times-in-history-where-the-olympics-have-been-postponed-or-canceled/ -

Precisely speaking, although the difference between the terms “delay” and “cancel” is small, it still exists and makes them essentially distinct. To postpone an event means to reschedule it to take place on a specified date (in this case, 23 July 2021). In contrast, cancelling an event means that the event will not occur within the scheduled time and it is unknown when it will take place.

We assume that this difference in these terms led the public to doubt the truth of this information. However, given all the relevant sources and following the developments that led to this decision, we can confirm that the information regarding the postponement of the Olympic Games for the first time in its history is true.


In an effort to contribute to preventing the dissemination of coronavirus misinformation and to promoting credible sources of information, UNICEF's young reporters have decided to check the accuracy of information published on social media and in the media that has attracted public attention. In verifying the accuracy of information, they have followed the example of the Public Disclosure Platform and partly used its publicly available methodology.