Biggest Sports Events Ever Canceled
Let the games begin. Well, not always. Whether it's the Olympics, World Cup, World Series, Stanley Cup or other famous events, the sports world is littered with a long history of competitions that never happened (or were never completed) for one reason or another.
Sometimes, it's due to war, pestilence, tragedy, injury, financial woes, labor strife or political turmoil. But the show has not always gone on as scheduled, much to the chagrin of legions of fans over the decades.
These are the biggest cancellations in the history of sports.
50. 2012 Strikeforce: Gilbert Melendez vs. Pat Healy
Sport: Mixed martial arts
Where: Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento, California
Bottom line: Less than a week before the planned September 29 MMA rumble, Strikeforce announced that it would be canceled after lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez injured his knee in training, leaving him unable to defend his title against Pat Healy.
Showtime pulled out of airing the event after Melendez’s withdrawal, and Strikeforce was left without a television partner.
49. 1972 Asian Cup Championship
Where: Tehran, Iran
Bottom line: Middle Eastern political strife overtook this soccer tournament that was scheduled to pit teams from seven nations.
Before the tournament began, the Kuwaiti and Lebanese clubs refused to commit to playing the Israeli team if the bracket brought them together.
The final nail was the withdrawal of the Hong Kong club for financial reasons.
48. 1998 FIBA European Super Cup
Where: Arena Gripe in Split, Croatia, and Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid in Madrid, Spain
Bottom line: The showdown between European men’s professional basketball powerhouses Jugoplastika of Yugoslavia and Real Madrid of Spain was scheduled to take place over a two-leg format on Sept. 26 in Croatia and Oct. 3 in Spain.
But it never happened, as the Yugoslav team bailed out, citing financial challenges.
47. 1935 Mediterranean Athletics Championships
Sport: Track and field
Where: Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, Greece
Bottom line: Greece, France, Italy, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Egypt and Mandatory Palestine were scheduled to take part in the inaugural event in June 1935, but the political and economic crisis that overshadowed Europe during the buildup to World War II led to its cancellation.
The idea for a track and field event for Mediterranean nations was revived after the war, and the event was finally held in 1947.
But it was discontinued after only three years.
46. 2016 Copa Sudamericana Finals
Where: Atanasio Girardot Sports Complex in Medellin, Colombia
Bottom line: The finals of the South American soccer tournament were canceled when the plane carrying Brazilian team Chapecoense crashed on the way to Colombia to take on the Colombian team, Atlético Nacional, in the first leg, killing 19 of the team’s 22 players.
As a result of the tragedy, Atlético Nacional requested that the title be awarded to Chapecoense.
45. 1939 New Zealand Rugby Tour of Great Britain and France
Where: Sites throughout Great Britain and France
Bottom line: At the invitation of the British Rugby Football League, the New Zealand Rugby League agreed to send a team to play a schedule of 28 games throughout Great Britain, with a second leg to follow in France.
After sailing for a month, the New Zealand team arrived in England in late August and played its first game on Sept. 2, beating St. Helens 19-3 before a crowd of 5,000.
The declaration of war by Great Britain against Germany the following day forced the cancellation of the rest of the tour.
44. 2015 Eschborn-Frankfurt City Loop
Where: Eschborn to Frankfurt, Germany
Bottom line: Held annually since 1962, the Eschborn-Frankfurt City Loop was canceled on the eve of the May 1, 2015, race because of a suspected terrorist plot that led to the arrest of a couple with explosive materials.
The suspected plot was considered similar to the Boston Marathon bombing that had taken place two years earlier.
Twenty-two teams were scheduled to take part in the race.
43. 1938 Far Eastern Championship Games
Where: Osaka, Japan
Bottom line: The precursor to the Asian Games, the Far Eastern Championship Games debuted in 1913, featuring nations from the Far East competing in an Olympic-format competition.
It was held every other year from 1913 to 1927, then in 1930 and 1934. The 1938 Games, however, were canceled after Japan invaded China in September 1937.
After the war, the event was reborn in 1951 as the Asian Games.
42. 1940 French Open
Where: Roland Garros in Paris, France
Bottom line: The 1940 French Open was the first of 17 tennis Grand Slam tournaments to be canceled by the outbreak of World War II.
With France occupied by Nazi Germany for much of the war, the tournament was resumed at Roland Garros from 1941 to 1945, but those tournaments are not recognized by France’s tennis governing body.
Officially, the Open returned in 1946, the same year that Wimbledon again began holding its championships.
41. High Noon in Hong Kong in 1994
Where: Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong, China
Bottom line: This World Boxing Organization-sanctioned event was to feature four fights on the same day in a boxing extravaganza.
Tommy Morrison was to take on Herbie Hide in a heavyweight title bout, along with Steve Collins against Lonnie Beasley for the WBO middleweight title, Billy Schwer versus Rafael Ruelas for the IBF lightweight title, and Frank Bruno against Ray Mercer in a non-title heavyweight matchup.
But the hyped extravaganza turned into a fiasco when last-minute financial problems forced the event to be scrapped.
40. 2012 Strikeforce: Cormier vs. Frank Mir
Sport: Mixed martial arts
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Bottom line: Less than two months after Strikeforce canceled its Gilbert Melendez-Pat Healy showdown, it was forced to scratch another high-profile event, again because of injuries to the headliners.
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Frank Mir and co-headliner and middleweight champion Luke Rockhold both pulled out because of injuries.
Mir had been scheduled to take on Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix champion Daniel Cormier. Strikeforce folded in 2013. Mir and Cormier finally met in a UFC showdown a few months later, with Cormier winning a unanimous decision.
39. 2015 Trophee Eric Bompard
Sport: Figure skating
Where: Meriadeck Ice Rink in Bordeaux, France
Bottom line: The grand prix figure skating competition was canceled after the first day because of the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.
The short programs and short dances had been completed on Nov. 13, but the free skatings and free dances were still to be held when the event was cut short.
38. 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1936
Sport: Auto racing
Where: Le Mans, France
Bottom line: The 14th Grand Prix of Endurance was canceled when a general strike broke out in France following the electoral victory of the Popular Front.
The strike meant that there were not enough workers to modify the streets around Le Mans for the race, and there weren't enough officials to run the event.
Thirty-three entries had been scheduled to compete.
37. 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game
Where: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio
Bottom line: The annual preseason kickoff to the NFL season, scheduled between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts, had to be scratched at the last minute because of unsafe field conditions.
The issue stemmed from paint that had been applied to the field logos and not dried properly, leading to concerns of poor footing and injury risks. Efforts by field crews to remedy the situation failed, and the teams were told an hour and 20 minutes before kickoff that the game was being canceled.
But no official announcement was made until just before the scheduled kickoff.
36. 2001 Isle of Man TT
Sport: Motorcycle racing
Where: Isle of Man TT Mountain Course in Isle of Mann, United Kingdom
Bottom line: Considered one of the most dangerous sporting events in the world, the annual motorcycle race first held in 1907 was canceled because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom in the spring and summer of 2001.
Officials were concerned about their ability to disinfect 40,000 spectators and competitors, as well as their motorcycles.
It was the first time the event had ever been canceled during peacetime.
35. 1975 World Chess Championship
Where: Manila, Philippines
Bottom line: The anticipated Cold War showdown between chess legends Bobby Fischer of the United States and Anatoly Karpov of the Soviet Union was canceled because of a dispute over the match format.
Fischer opted to forfeit his title when officials wouldn’t give in to his demands, including that there be no limit to the number of games played and that he would retain his title in the event of a 9-9 tie in games.
Karpov was named world champion by default.
34. 1936 People’s Olympiad
Where: Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys in Barcelona, Spain
Bottom line: Conceived as a protest event to the 1936 Olympics being held in Nazi Germany, the People’s Olympiad was scheduled to host 6,000 athletes from 22 nations.
However, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War dashed its plans. The Summer Olympics finally made it to Barcelona 56 years later.
33. 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix
Sport: Auto racing
Where: Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain
Bottom line: Scheduled as the opening round of the 2011 Formula One season, the Bahrain Grand Prix was initially postponed because of civil unrest in the country that led to 30 deaths.
It was to be rescheduled for later in the year, but organizers ultimately decided to cancel it altogether when racing teams balked over logistical issues.
32. 2001 FIFA Club World Championships
Where: Madrid, A Coruna and Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Bottom line: The planned second edition of FIFA’s Club World Championships was scuttled by a number of factors, including the collapse of FIFA’s marketing partner ISL.
Twelve club teams had been invited to compete, including the Los Angeles Galaxy, winners of the 2000 CONCACAF Champions Cup.
The event finally resumed in 2005 and was held every year since 2020, when the event was moved to 2021.
31. 2010-11 Libyan Premier League
Where: Sites throughout Libya
Bottom line: The 43rd edition of the Libyian soccer league had to be scratched halfway through the season because of the outbreak of the Libyan Civil War that ultimately toppled longtime Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
One of the top soccer leagues in the Arab world, the 2010-11 season consisted of 12 clubs. With the country engulfed by civil strife, the league has only crowned champions three times in the past decade.
30. Michael Spinks vs. Dwight Muhammad Qawi Light Heavyweight Championship in 1984
Where: Reno, Nevada
Bottom line: One year after Michael Spinks defeated Dwight Muhammad Qawi by unanimous decision to win the undisputed light heavyweight championship in the fight dubbed "The Brawl for It All," the two were scheduled to meet in a rematch.
But the fight was canceled when Qawi was injured in training three weeks before the Sept. 7, 1984, bout, and the two Hall of Fame boxers never met again in the ring.
29. 2010 Islamic Solidarity Games
Where: Tehran, Iran
Bottom line: A dispute between host country Iran and Saudi Arabia over the correct term for a body of water led to the cancellation of the second annual Games bringing together top athletes throughout the Islamic World.
Saudia Arabia and other Arabic nations objected to the use of the term "Persian Gulf" instead of "Arabian Gulf" or simply "Gulf" on literature and medals.
The Solidarity Games returned in 2013 in Indonesia.
28. 2018 North American Soccer League season
Where: Sites throughout the United States
Bottom line: The planned eighth season of the NASL (not to be confused with the original NASL, which played from 1968 to 1984) was canceled when the league lost a court battle to try to preserve its Division II status.
The United States Soccer Federation had downgraded its status to a provisional sanctioning after the league’s membership declined to fewer than the 12 required by the federation (the 2017 league champion, San Francisco Deltas, had folded after the season).
The league, which had hoped to return to competition in 2019, ultimately folded.
27. 2012 UFC 151: Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson
Sport: Mixed martial arts
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada
Bottom line: The first canceled promotional event in the history of Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 151, was to be headlined by the light heavyweight championship match between champion Jon Jones and former Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson.
The cancellation came a little over a week before the planned Sept. 1 event, when the UFC announced that Henderson would not be able to fight because of an injury, and Jones refused to accept a replacement fight.
26. 2011-12 Egyptian Premier League
Where: Sites throughout Egypt
Bottom line: The league’s 55th season was suspended and ultimately canceled following the Port Said Stadium disaster on Feb. 1, 2012, in which 74 people were killed and more than 500 injured during a massive riot following a league match between Masry and Ahly.
At the time of the disaster, teams had played between 14 and 17 games out of a scheduled 30.
The following season was also cut short and canceled, this time because of the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état.
25. 2001 Major League Soccer Regular Season
Where: Sites throughout the United States
Bottom line: The final two weeks of the 2001 MLS season, consisting of 10 games, were canceled because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The playoffs, however, went on as scheduled starting Sept. 20, with the San Jose Earthquakes winning their first league title.
Nevertheless, the league was on the verge of folding after the season, before Lamar Hunt rallied his former owners to make the necessary moves to save it.
24. U.S. Women’s Cup
Where: Buffalo Grove, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Kansas
Bottom line: The seventh U.S. Women’s Cup tournament, which pitted the United States against China, Germany and Japan, was canceled after three matches because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The United States had defeated Germany 4-1 in its first match and was scheduled to face off against Japan on Sept. 11 in Columbus. The tournament, hosted by the United States Soccer Federation, was held for the final time in 2002.
Where: All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, England
Bottom line: 1940 was to be the 60th staging of The Championships, but the outbreak of World War II the previous year forced the Grand Slam tournament to be canceled, and they wouldn’t return until 1946. It marked the first time the tournament wasn’t held since 1915-1918, when it was also upended by world war. Two bombs landed on Centre Court in October of 1940, and the damage would take more than eight years to repair.
22. IZOD IndyCar World Championships
Sport: Auto racing
Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nevada
Bottom line: The final race of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar series schedule was cut short by tragedy when two-time Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon was killed in a major crash involving 15 cars. The race was delayed for over two hours before officials decided to cancel the remaining 188 laps after news of Wheldon’s death circulated. Drivers completed a five-lap salute in honor of the fallen racing star.
21. 1981 'This Is It' Supercard
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City
Bottom line: It seemed too good to be true — a boxing supercard featuring top draws such as Ken Norton, Gerry Cooney, Thomas Hearns, Wilfred Benitez and Eddie Mstafa Muhammad all competing on the same night. And it was.
The event fell apart amid an embezzling scandal involving promoter Harold Smith. There was a silver lining: The much-hyped Cooney-Norton and Hearns-Benitez fights eventually took place.
20. 2013 Race of Champions
Sport: Auto racing
Where: Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand
Bottom line: The 26th running of the one-of-a-kind international motorsports competition was scrubbed because of political unrest in Thailand.
The Race of Champions is the only competition in the world to feature racers from the sport’s major disciplines: Formula One, World Rally Championship, IndyCar, NASCAR, sports cars and touring cars.
Among the stars that had been slated to compete in the 2013 edition was nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion Tom Kristensen.
19. 2001 WCG-American Express Championship
Where: Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, Missouri
Bottom line: One of the four World Golf Championships tournaments, this was the highest-profile PGA Tour event canceled in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
With a first-place prize of $1 million, it was scheduled to take place on Sept.16, 2001 (the lower-profile Tampa Bay Classic, scheduled for the same day, was also canceled).
It marked the first time in five years the PGA Tour had canceled an event. The tour schedule resumed on Sept. 23 at the Marconi Pennsylvania Classic.
18. Wladimir Klitschko vs. Tyson Fury Heavyweight Championship Fight in 2016
Where: Manchester Arena, Manchester, England
Bottom line: After Tyson Fury ended Wladimir Klitschko’s 10-year reign as heavyweight champion with a unanimous decision victory, the two were slated to meet in a rematch the following year in Fury’s hometown.
However, less than a month from the scheduled July 9 showdown, Fury announced that the fight would be postponed after he suffered an ankle sprain.
It was originally rescheduled for October but never happened, as Fury was declared "medically unfit to fight."
17. 1999 NBA All-Star Game
Where: First Union Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bottom line: For the first time since its inception in 1951, the NBA’s annual midseason showcase was called off.
It was a victim of the NBA labor dispute/lockout that lasted until Jan. 20, 1999, and forced the regular season to be shortened from 82 to 50 games.
The All-Star Game has been held every year since.
16. 1942 Indianapolis 500
Sport: Auto racing
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Indiana
Bottom line: The 30th running of the Indianapolis 500, scheduled for May 30, 1942, was called off because of the United States’ entry into World War II.
The nation banned auto racing for four years as it focused on the war effort, during which the Indianapolis Speedway fell into disrepair.
There were questions about whether the Indy 500 would ever be revived, but it returned in 1946 and has been held every year since.
15. 1990 West Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament
Where: Gersten Pavilion, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles
Bottom line: Perhaps the most tragic event in the history of college basketball brought a sudden end to the 1990 West Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament when Loyola Marymount University star Hank Gathers collapsed during the semifinal game against Portland University after scoring on a slam dunk.
He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead two hours later. Gathers had collapsed during a game earlier in the season and been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. He returned to action after sitting out several weeks and was placed on medication for the condition.
Gathers’ friend and star teammate, Bo Kimble, led the Lions to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament after the tragedy.
14. 1945 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Where: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts
Bottom line: The annual Midsummer Classic, scheduled for July 10, 1945, was canceled because of wartime travel restrictions.
Before the season, Major League Baseball had agreed to reduce its travel by 25 percent from the previous season at the request of the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation. World War II ended less than two months later.
It remains the only time since the All-Star Game was created in 1933 that it was not held and All-Stars were not officially selected. In its place, seven interleague games were held.
13. 2012 New York City Marathon
Where: New York City, New York
Bottom line: Scheduled for Nov. 4, 2012, the world’s largest marathon was canceled as the city struggled to recover from Hurricane Sandy a week earlier.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said just days before that the race would go on, but with thousands of residents still lacking electricity and other basic needs, organizers ultimately pulled the plug on the race.
It remains the only year since the marathon was started in 1970 that it’s not been run.
12. 1919 Stanley Cup Final
Sport: Ice hockey
Where: Seattle, Washington and Montreal, Quebec
Bottom line: With the Stanley Cup Final tied 2-2-1 between the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champion Seattle Metropolitans and NHL champion Montreal Canadiens, officials were forced to cancel the deciding game when Montreal was left with only three healthy players because of the Spanish flu pandemic sweeping the globe.
The flu claimed the life of Canadiens defenseman Joe Hall four days later, while coach George Kennedy was permanently weakened and died a few years later.
11. 1944 Winter Olympics
Where: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Bottom line: With World War II engulfing Europe, the Winter Games were canceled for the second consecutive time.
Corina d’Ampezzo had originally been awarded the Olympics in June 1939, just two months before the outbreak of war.
The Southern Alps town finally hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956. It is scheduled to co-host the 2026 Winter Games along with Milan.
10. 1940 Winter Olympics
Where: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Bottom line: In early 1939, the International Olympic Committee chose to hold the fifth Winter Games at the same German site as the 1936 Olympics after the first two chosen hosts, Sapporo, Japan, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, fell through.
In the end, it didn’t matter, as Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 launched World War II and ushered in the era of Olympics cancellations. Both the Summer and Winter Games were canceled in 1940 and 1944 before resuming in 1948.
Germany has not hosted a Winter Games since 1936.
9. 2004-05 NHL Season
Sport: Ice hockey
Where: Sites throughout the United States and Canada
Bottom line: What was supposed to be the NHL’s 88th season was wiped out entirely by a labor dispute that began with a lockout of players on Sept. 16, 2004.
As the dispute dragged on for months, officials finally decided to cancel the entire 1,230-game schedule on Feb. 16, 2005. The NHL became the second North American professional sports league to lose an entire postseason of games because of labor strife, following the 1994 Major League Baseball season.
It was the first time since 1919 that a Stanley Cup champion was not crowned.
8. 1904 World Series
Where: Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston, Massachusetts, and Polo Grounds, New York City
Bottom line: In perhaps the most bizarre cancellation of a major American sporting event, the 1904 World Series was called off when the National League champion Giants refused to play the American League champs Boston Americans for no particular reason other than animosity between the two leagues.
Giants manager John McGraw claimed his team to be champs of the "only real major league" and therefore saw no reason to play the Series. The first modern World Series had been played the previous season, when the Americans defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This marked the last time a World Series was not held until 1994.
7. 1946 World Cup
Where: None chosen
Bottom line: Although World War II had ended the previous year, the World Cup’s governing body, FIFA, was still reeling from its struggles to remain solvent during the war years and decided it would not be able to pull off the logistical challenges of holding a Cup in 1946.
As a result, the World Cup was canceled for the second consecutive time. It finally revived itself in 1950, 12 years after the last one had been contested.
6. 1916 Summer Olympics
Where: Berlin, Germany
Bottom line: Berlin was selected in 1912 as the host site for the sixth edition of the modern Olympiad, and the Olympic stadium was dedicated the following year with the release of 10,000 pigeons and 60,000 people in attendance.
Planning for the Games continued even after the outbreak of World War I in 1914, as expectations were that the war would be over by 1916. But that would not be the case, and the Games were ultimately canceled.
Berlin finally hosted the Olympics in 1936, the last before another world war led to more cancelations.
5. 1942 World Cup
Where: None chosen
Bottom line: Germany and Brazil both applied to host the 1942 Cup, but before a choice could be made, war broke out in Europe, and the tournament was canceled.
The Cup, which had been first held in 1930, was beginning to emerge as one of the world’s preeminent sporting events, but because of World War II, the entire decade of the 1940s was lost for the world’s greatest soccer tournament.
4. Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield Heavyweight Championship Fight in 1991
Where: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada
Bottom line: The highly anticipated and much-awaited showdown between the two great heavyweights of their era, Tyson and Holyfield, was slated for Nov. 8, 1991, with tickets going for as much as $2,000.
But just weeks before the fight, Tyson pulled out with a rib injury, and he soon found himself behind bars for rape. As a result, the two stars did not meet in the ring until five years later.
Appropriately, the 1996 fight was billed simply as "Finally."
3. 1944 Summer Olympics
Where: London, United Kingdom
Bottom line: London was selected in 1939 as the host site for the 1944 Games, just months before the German invasion of Poland that brought Great Britain to war with Germany.
Five years later, World War II was still raging, and the Games had to be canceled for the second consecutive quadrennium. There was, however, an unofficial "POW Olympics" staged by Polish prisoners of war from July 23 to Aug. 13, with participants crafting an Olympic flag out of bedsheets and scarves.
London went on to host the first post-war Olympics in 1948, and the Games were held without interruption every quadrennium until the 2020 postponement.
2. 1940 Summer Olympics
Where: Tokyo, Japan, and Helsinki, Finland
Bottom line: For the first time since 1916, the Summer Olympics were canceled, again by a world war.
The Olympics were originally awarded to Tokyo, making it the first non-Western city to host an Olympics. After Tokyo forfeited the Games because of its war with China, the International Olympic Committee chose Helsinki as the host site.
But with the outbreak of World War II, the Games were scratched altogether and didn't resume until 1948.
1. 1994 World Series
Where: Not determined
Bottom line: For the first time in 90 years, there was no "Fall Classic" as the 1994 players strike, which suspended play on Aug. 12 and led to the cancellation of the remainder of the season.
This was to be the first year with a three-tier playoff format, after the American and National Leagues had expanded to three divisions each. Major League Baseball remained in limbo until just days before the 1995 season was set to begin, when a settlement was finally reached.
For many, the cancellation is still considered the most embarrassing moment in baseball — and perhaps American sports — history. And it cost the Montreal Expos a possible world championship.