Extraordinary 40-year 'curse' that could doom Tokyo Olympics

With the Tokyo Olympic Games teetering towards postponement, a top Japanese official claims a bizarre 40-year "curse" has effectively doomed the nation.

There's been growing unease and some public calls to postpone the Tokyo Olympics planned for July-August as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies worldwide.

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Scott Morrison has already confirmed Australia's indefinite worldwide travel ban applies to Olympic athletes, throwing a major spanner in the works for Tokyo 2020.

If the Olympics does go ahead without Australia, it would mark the first Games where there have been no Aussie athletes since the first modern Games in 1896.

Australia is one of only five countries to have competed at every modern Games since its inception 124 years ago.

However, there is a growing sense of inevitability that the Olympics will be postponed, with Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso referencing an eerie 40-year anomaly that saw the 1940 Olympics cancelled by World War II and the 1980 Moscow Games marred by boycotts.

The USA led the boycott of the Moscow Games in protest of Russia's invasion of Afghanistan, with 65 nations refusing to participate.

The 1980 Moscow Games was marred by a massive US-led boycott. Pic: Getty

Now, 40 years later and the prospect of Tokyo 2020 going ahead as planned is looking extremely grim.

“It’s a problem that’s happened every 40 years,” Japan’s finance minister said.

“It’s the cursed Olympics – and that’s a fact.”

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe says a decision about whether to postpone the Games could happen soon.

“A decision on the Olympic Games may become very obvious very quickly in the coming days and weeks,” Coe said in a statement to Reuters on Saturday.

“I don’t think we should have the Olympic Games at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety.

If the Games do go ahead, Australian athletes could be prevented from participating by the Australian government's indefinite international travel ban.

When asked if Team Australia should go to the Olympics, the prime minister said the decision was up to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

The Tokyo 2020 Games faces the prospect of being postponed due to COVID-19. Pic: Getty

“But the simple answer is that we have a complete travel ban to the rest of the world, so the Smartraveller advice and the advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade I think is pretty clear there,” he told the Seven Network on Sunday.

“The health of all Australians is the most important thing and there's nothing more important than that.”

IOC to discuss possible Tokyo 2020 delay

The International Olympic Committee will step up its “scenario planning” for the Tokyo 2020 Games - including their postponement - it says after an emergency meeting.

The IOC will hold detailed discussions which will include possibly changing the July 24 start date due to the global coronavirus pandemic, but emphasised that a cancellation of the Games would not solve any of the problems or help anybody.

“Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda,” the IOC said in a statement on Sunday, adding that the discussions would be completed within the next four weeks.

The IOC is facing mounting opposition to the current schedule for the Games as athletes, teams and federations call for a delay because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Several National Olympic Committees have urged the IOC to postpone the Games as the pandemic forces countries to lock down and has wreaked havoc with their preparations.

“These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games,” the IOC said.

“The IOC will... start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement,” it said.

“The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks.”

The British Olympic Association called on the IOC to make its decisions quickly.

“We welcome the IOC executive board decision to review the options in respect of a postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” BOA Chairman Sir Hugh Robertson said.

“However, we urge rapid decision-making for the sake of athletes who still face significant uncertainty," he added.

“Restrictions now in place have removed the ability of athletes to compete on a level playing field and it simply does not seem appropriate to continue on the present course towards the Olympic Games in the current environment.”

With agencies