1936 Summer Olympics: Berlin, Germany
The 1936 Olympics in Berlin were marred from the outset, with the U.S., Great Britain, and France nearly boycotting the Games due to the Nazi regime in power at the time. German athletes won 101 medals, by far the most, compared to 57 won by Americans. Yet the enduring image from the 1936 Olympics remains Black American Jesse Owens winning four golds in the 100 metres, 200 metres, 4×100 metre relay, and long jump — denying Adolf Hitler’s ambition to use the Olympics to push the myth of Aryan supremacy.
1940 Summer Olympics: Helsinki, Finland (Cancelled, WWII)
For the second time, a massive worldwide conflict canceled the Olympics. Tokyo was initially supposed to be the first country outside of Europe or the U.S. to host the Olympics, but pulled out in 1938 as it went to war with China the year before. Helsinki and Finland stepped in to host the Games, but the Soviet Union attacked the country in 1939. With war breaking out among many of the world’s countries, the Games were scrapped in 1940.
1944 Summer Olympics: London, England (Cancelled, WWII)
Though there was never a formally published announcement that the 1944 Olympics were canceled, that was the last thing on many people’s minds that year — particularly in London. The Great Britain capital city had won its bid to host the 1944 Games in 1939, but as the German blitz wore on, it became clear the Olympics would not take place.
1948 Summer Olympics: London, England
Though London was still recovering from World War II and the blitz in 1948, the games of the XIV Olympiad it hosted was a success. More than 4,400 participants from 59 countries competed — Japan and Germany were barred and the Soviet Union opted not to compete. U.S. athletes remained the most successful contingent, taking 84 medals, including 38 golds. Great Britain won 27 medals.
1952 Summer Olympics: Helsinki, Finland
Like London four years prior, Helsinki was finally able to host the Olympics it had been denied by World War II in 1952. Though the U.S. topped the medal count again, with 76, it would be the Games in which the Soviet Union established itself as a serious contender. The nation finished second with 71 total medals. Soviet gymnast Viktor Chukarin won six medals in the 1952 Games — gold in the individual all-around, team all-around, horse vault, and pommelled horse, and silver in the parallel bars and rings.