1980 Summer Olympics boycott

The 1980 Summer Olympics boycott was one part of a number of actions initiated by the United States to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[1] The Soviet Union, which hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics, and other countries would later boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

1980 Summer Olympics (Moscow) boycotting countries (blue)
Countries that boycotted the 1980 Games are shaded blue


Western governments first considered the idea of boycotting the Moscow Olympics in response to the situation in Afghanistan at the 20 December 1979 meeting of NATO representatives. The idea was not completely new: since 1975/1976 proposals for an Olympic boycott circulated widely among human rights activists and groups as a sanction for Soviet violations of human rights.[2] At that moment, not many of the member governments were interested in the proposal. The idea began to gain popularity in early January 1980 when Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov called for a boycott. On 14 January 1980, the Carter Administration joined Sakharov's appeal and set a deadline by which the Soviet Union must pull out of Afghanistan or face the consequences, including an international boycott of the games. On 26 January 1980, Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark announced that Canada, like the US, would boycott the Olympic Games if Soviet forces did not leave Afghanistan by 20 February 1980.[3]

When the deadline passed a month later without any change to the situation in Central Asia, Carter pushed U.S. allies to pull their Olympic teams from the upcoming games.[4][5]

In late January the Soviet regime prepared to face down this "hostile campaign". As Central Committee documents show, in addition to its own propaganda efforts it was relying on the International Olympic Committee and its 89 member committees to behave as in the past (e.g. after Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968), and not give in to pressure from national governments. It noted that the government and National Olympic Committee of France had already stated a willingness to participate.[6]

After its 24 April meeting, the head of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Robert Kane told the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the USOC would be willing to send a team to Moscow if there were a "spectacular change in the international situation" in the coming weeks.[7]

In an attempt to save the Games Lord Killanin, then president of the IOC, arranged to meet and discuss the boycott with Jimmy Carter and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, before the new 24 May deadline. Killanin insisted that the Games should continue as scheduled, while President Carter reaffirmed the US position. viz. to boycott the Games unless the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan.[8]

Several interventions at the late April 1980 Bilderberg meeting in Aachen included discussion of the implications of the boycott. The world would perceive a boycott, it was argued, as little more than a sentimental protest, not a strategic act. An African representative at the Bilderberg meeting voiced a different view: whether there was additional support outside the US or not, he believed, a boycott would be an effective symbolic protest and be dramatically visible to those within the Soviet Union.[9] Some Russian dissidents expressed an opinion that boycott would be a strong message to the Soviets who breached the Olympic rules (using state-sponsored doping and professional athletes despite the fact that the rules of the time only allowed amateurs) to achieve their political goals.[10][11] The Carter administration brought considerable pressure to bear on other NATO Member-States to support the boycott. Their support was not universal.

The International Olympics Federations protested that the pressures by the US and other supporting countries for the boycott was an inappropriate means to achieve a political end, and the victims of this action would be the athletes.[12] West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said that the American attitude that the allies "should simply do as they are told" was unacceptable,[13] although West Germany did join the boycott.

Responses by country and continent

Boxer Muhammad Ali traveled to Tanzania, Nigeria, and Senegal to convince their leaders to join the boycott.[14][15][16] He also successfully convinced the Kenyan government to do so.[17]

Many countries ultimately joined the US in a full boycott of the Games. These included Japan and West Germany where Chancellor Schmidt was able to convince the National Olympic Committee (NOC) to support the boycott. China, the Philippines, Chile, Argentina and Canada also boycotted the Games entirely. Some of these countries competed at the alternative "Liberty Bell Classic" or Olympic Boycott Games held in Philadelphia that same year.

The governments of the United Kingdom, France, and Australia supported the boycott, but left any final decision over the participation of their country's athletes to their respective NOCs and the decision of their individual athletes. The United Kingdom and France sent a much smaller athletic delegation than would have originally been possible. The British associations that governed equestrian sports, hockey, and yachting completely boycotted the 1980 summer Olympics.[18][19]

Spain, Italy, Sweden, Iceland and Finland were other principal nations representing western Europe at the Games.[19] All these countries participated under a neutral flag with the Olympic anthem played in any ceremony. Italian athletes serving in its military corps could not attend the Games, however, because of the national government's official support of the boycott. Many events were affected by the loss of participants and some US-born athletes who were citizens of other countries, such as Italy and Australia, did compete in Moscow.

A firm enemy of the United States under Ayatollah Khomeini's new theocracy, Iran also boycotted the Moscow Games after Khomeini joined the condemnation by the United Nations and the Islamic Conference of the invasion of Afghanistan.[20] Independently of the United States, the Islamic Conference urged a boycott of Moscow after the invasion;[21] the Ayatollah meanwhile accused Moscow of arming the Baluchis against his regime.[20]

Many teams were avoided by Soviet television at the Games during the opening and closing ceremonies because their national governments officially supported the boycott. Their national colors could not be flown nor could their anthems be played (Australia, Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Spain, and Switzerland).

Athletes and sportspeople competing without national flags or anthems

Lord Killanin permitted NOC-qualified athletes to compete at the Games without their national flags or anthems (which allowed NOCs to send athletes in a non-national context) but this did not allow other individuals lacking NOC sanction to participate in the Games as this was perceived by the IOC as a potential weakening of their authority.[7] Four competitors (including one athlete) from New Zealand competed independently and marched under their NOC flag because the government officially supported the boycott.[22] The athletes of 16 countries did not fly their national flags. Instead Olympic flags were raised and the Olympic Anthem replaced their national anthems at the medal ceremonies. There was one awards ceremony where three Olympic flags were raised.

Other modifications were made in the Games activities, such as when the Boycott prevented Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau from attending the Moscow Games. Sandra Henderson and Stéphane Préfontaine, the final torchbearers at the previous games, were sent in his stead to participate in the Antwerp Ceremony at the opening ceremony, and at the closing ceremony, the Los Angeles city flag (rather than the United States flag) was raised to symbolize the next host of the Olympic Games. The Antwerp flag was received by an IOC member from the USA instead of the mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley; there was no handover to Los Angeles ceremony at the closing.

Non-participating countries

"We will go to the Olympics", Anti-boycott sticker, published by the Communist Youth Federation of Spain.

Sixty-six countries that were invited to participate in the 1980 Olympics did not do so for various reasons including support for the boycott and economic reasons. Qatar's 1980 IOC recognition came to late for it to be invited. Taiwan refused to participate as a result of the 1979 Nagoya Resolution, in which the People's Republic of China agreed to participate in IOC activities if Taiwan was referred to as "Chinese Taipei". However, China boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games as well.

Altered participation

The sixteen nations that follow participated in the Games under some adjustment to full conventional participation in the Games activities.

Nations that did not participate in the Opening Ceremony

Seven countries participated in the Games without taking part in the Opening Ceremony:[23]

National teams represented at the Opening Ceremony by Chef de Mission

Two nations sent one representative each (Chef de Mission) who entered the Olympic stadium during the Opening Ceremony under the Olympic flag; for each country this was a token gesture, as their governments allowed athletes to take part in the Games if they chose to do so. Ireland also competed under the Olympic flag, rather than its own.

Nations under the Olympic Flag by their own athletes

At least 5 national teams participated at the Games under the Olympic flag rather than their respective National or NOC flags, as doing the latter would have denoted that their participation was officially sanctioned by their respective nations.[23]

Nations that competed under their respective NOC flag

Alternative events

Events were staged separately in several sports, including the Liberty Bell Classic for track and field[26] and the USGF International Invitational for gymnastics. At the U.S. Swimming Nationals, the split and finishing times from the corresponding Olympic events the previous week were displayed on the scoreboards so that a virtual comparison of medals could be kept.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Smothers, Ronald (July 19, 1996). "OLYMPICS;Bitterness Lingering Over Carter's Boycott". The New York Times.
  2. ^ U. Tulli, "Bringing Human Rights In: The Campaign Against the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games and the Origins of the Nexus Between Human Rights and the Olympic Games", in The International Journal of the History of Sport, Vol.33, Issue 16 (2016-2017) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09523367.2017.1315104
  3. ^ "Birth of Wayne Gretzky - Historica Canada". www.historicacanada.ca.
  4. ^ "The Olympic Boycott, 1980". U.S. Department of State Archive.
  5. ^ Smith, Terence (January 20, 1980). "The President Said Nyet". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Secretariat: Planning a response to the hostile campaign against participation in the Moscow Olympics, 29 January 1980, St 195/3, The Bukovsky Archives: Communism on Trial.
  7. ^ a b American Embassy Memorandum to Secretary of State, "Olympics: Lausanne IOC EXCOM Meeting", 23 April 1980, US Department of State, FOIA
  8. ^ Secretary of State Memorandum to All Diplomatic and Consular Posts Immediate, "Olympics: Mid-May Update", 16 May 1980, US Department of State, FOIA
  9. ^ Bilderberg meeting report Aachen, 1980. Retrieved 16 June 2009. Archived 19 June 2009.
  10. ^ "How the Russians break the Olympic rules". The Christian Science Monitor.
  11. ^ "The Soviet Doping Plan: Document Reveals Illicit Approach to '84 Olympics". The New York Times.
  12. ^ American Embassy Memorandum to Secretary of State and White House, "Olympics: IOC Message to Mr. Cutler", April 27, 1980, US Department of State, FOIA
  13. ^ Sarantakes, Nicholas Evan (2010). Dropping the Torch: Jimmy Carter, the Olympic Boycott, and the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1139788566. p. 121.
  14. ^ Sarantakes. Dropping the Torch, pp. 115–118.
  15. ^ Honey, Martha (February 4, 1980). "Ali Spars With Second Thoughts As Africans Argue Boycott Issue". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  16. ^ Ezra, Michael (June 5, 2016). "Muhammad Ali's Strange, Failed Diplomatic Career". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  17. ^ Cuddihy, Martin (June 9, 2016). "Muhammad Ali: Africa remembers the boxing legend". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  18. ^ Associated Press (April 23, 1980). "Governments slapped for boycott pressure". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
  19. ^ a b 1980 Summer Olympics Official Report from the Organizing Committee Archived June 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, vol. 2, p. 190.
  20. ^ a b Golan, Galia; Soviet Policies in the Middle East: From World War Two to Gorbachev; p. 193 ISBN 9780521358590
  21. ^ Freedman, Robert O.; Moscow and the Middle East: Soviet Policy since the Invasion of Afghanistan, p. 78 ISBN 0-521-35976-7
  22. ^ 1980 Moscow. olympic.org.nz
  23. ^ a b "Partial Boycott – New IOC President". Keesing's Record of World Events. 26: 30599. December 1980.
  24. ^ Fimrite, Ron (July 28, 1980). "Only The Bears Were Bullish". SI Vault; CNN. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  25. ^ "Olympics chief feared protests". Belfasttelegraph.co.uk. December 30, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  26. ^ Neff, Craig (July 28, 1980). "...and meanwhile in Philadelphia". Sports Illustrated. 53 (5): 18. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  27. ^ Marshall, Joe (August 11, 1980). "All that glitter was not gold". Sports Illustrated. 53 (7): 32. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  28. ^ Caraccioli, Tom (2008). Boycott: Stolen Dream of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. Washington D.C.: New Chapter Press.
1979 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships

The 1979 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships were held in Duisburg, West Germany.

The men's competition consisted of six Canadian (single paddle, open boat) and nine kayak events. Three events were held for the women, all in kayak.

This was the fifteenth championships in canoe sprint. It was where an incident later referred to as The Česiunas Affair took place when Soviet-born Lithuanian canoer Vladas Česiūnas appeared at the event as a spectator only to vanish. The West German government claimed Česiunas had defected, but the former canoer had returned to the Soviet Union voluntarily several weeks later. During Česiunas' disappearance, he would speak in favor of the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott, more than two months before the Soviet–Afghan War, but later returned to the Soviet Embassy in Bonn. The Soviets toned down their rhetoric about Česiunas' "disappearance" in the West and changed his mind all the while West Germany continued to maintain that he had been kidnapped.

Ben Plucknett

Walter Harrison ("Ben") Plucknett (April 13, 1954 in Beatrice, Nebraska – November 17, 2002 in Essex, Missouri) was an American track and field athlete, known primarily for the discus throw. Plucknett qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but was unable to compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes. In 1981, he broke the existing world record with a throw of 233'7", and broke the record again with a throw of 72.34 m (237'4") on July 7, 1981. However, on July 13, 1981, the International Association of Athletics Federations banned Plucknett from further competition after he had tested positive for anabolic steroid use, and the records were removed. Even though he was stripped of his World Record breaking throws the IAAF still recognizes his throw of 71.32m (233' 11.87") thrown on June 4, 1983, in Eugene, Oregon as the current North American record. He died of a brain aneurysm on his farm.

In 1983 Plucknett bench-pressed 623 lbs.

Bermuda at the Olympics

Bermuda first participated at the Olympic Games in 1936, and has sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games since then, except when they participated in the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. Bermuda has also participated in every Winter Olympic Games since 1992.

To date, Clarence Hill is the only Bermudian ever to win an Olympic medal, a bronze in boxing. This makes Bermuda the least populated nation (53,500 in 1976) in Olympic history to ever win a medal at the Summer Olympics.

The National Olympic Committee for Bermuda was created in 1935 and recognised by the International Olympic Committee in 1936.

Bobby Coffman

Bobby Coffman (born February 17, 1951) is an American former track and field athlete who competed in the decathlon. He set his personal record of 8274 points in Quebec City on August 12, 1979.Coffman competed at two major international events and won gold in both. He first took the decathlon title at the 1979 Pan American Games with a championship record total of 8078 points. The following year he qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but was unable to compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes. and was the winner of the Olympic boycott games known as the Liberty Bell Classic with a score of 8058 points.At national level he won at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in both 1979 and 1980, having placed fifth earlier in his career in 1975.

Bruce Kennedy (athlete)

Bruce Kennedy (born March 25, 1951) is a Rhodesian, then American track and field athlete known for the javelin throw. He has been dubbed "one of the unluckiest athletes in Olympic history" not because of his failures at the Olympics but due to the political nature of his inability to appear at the Olympics. Born in Southern Rhodesia, he first came to the United States to study at the University of California, Berkeley. He qualified for the Rhodesian team for the 1972 Olympics, but when he arrived in Munich, he was not allowed to take the field. The government of Rhodesia, created when Kennedy was 14 years old, had never been recognized as a legitimate government. It practiced apartheid and was considered a pariah state and its athletes, including Kennedy, were excluded from the Olympics. He made the Rhodesian Olympic team again in 1976, but was not welcome at the Olympics. After eight years in the United States, he was able to obtain American citizenship in 1977 and compete for his new country. He finished second at the 1980 Olympic Trials but by that point in time, President Jimmy Carter had already declared the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He was one of 461 athletes to receive a Congressional Gold Medal instead. He was able to attend the 1984 Olympics near his home in Santa Barbara, California, working as an usher.Kennedy won the American national championships twice, once before he had changed citizenship.

David Lee (athlete)

David Lee (born April 23, 1959) is an American former hurdler. Lee qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but was unable to compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes.

El Salvador at the 1984 Summer Olympics

El Salvador competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, United States, from 28 July to 12 August 1984. This was the nation's third appearance at the Olympics. The nation previously missed the 1976 Summer Olympics and participated in the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott.

Comité Olímpico de El Salvador sent a total of 10 athletes to the Games, 9 men and 1 women, to compete in 5 sports. Long-distance runner Kriscia García was chosen to carry her nation's flag during the opening ceremony.

Fred Taylor (sprinter)

Fred Taylor (born November 5, 1957) is an American retired sprinter.

Taylor qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but did not compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes.

Gymnastics at the 1980 Summer Olympics

At the 1980 Summer Olympics, fourteen different artistic gymnastics events were contested, eight for men and six for women. All events were held at the Sports Palace of the Central Lenin Stadium in Moscow from July 20 through 25th. Several teams who had qualified to compete were absent as a result of the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott, including the United States, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, and West Germany.

For the first time in Olympic competition, in event finals for the vault an average of two vaults was used as the final score, rather than the best of two vaults.

James Walker (hurdler)

James Walker (born October 1957) is a former American hurdler. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he attended Auburn University from 1976-1980. Walker was one of "The Fabulous Four" along with teammates Harvey Glance, Willie Smith, and Tony Easley; together they set more school and conference records than any other foursome in the history of the Southeastern Conference. Walker qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but did not compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes.James Walker currently lives in Madison, Alabama.

Karen Haude

Karen Fröhlich née Haude is a retired German field hockey player.

Haude played for the clubs MTV Braunschweig and Eintracht Braunschweig. With Eintracht Braunschweig, she won five German championship titles. She also played 60 games in total for the German national team.With West Germany, Haude won the 1981 Women's Hockey World Cup. She was also called up to the West German squad for the 1980 Summer Olympics. However, due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott, the West German team ultimately didn't enter the tournament.In 1981, Haude was awarded the Silbernes Lorbeerblatt. In 1988, she was inducted into the hall of fame of the Lower Saxon Institute of Sports History.

Karin Smith

Karin Kiefer Smith (born August 4, 1955 in Fürstenfeldbruck, Bavaria) is a retired female javelin thrower from the United States. She was born in Germany. She is a three-time Olympian. Smith qualified for a fourth, the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, but was unable to compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. She did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes.

Lorna Griffin

Lorna Joann Griffin (born June 9, 1956 in Hamilton, Montana) is a retired female shot putter and discus thrower from the United States. She was a two-time silver medalist at the 1983 Pan American Games. Griffin qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but was unable to compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. She did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes. She competed for the United States at the 1984 Summer Olympics, finishing in 9th (shot put) and 12th place (discus).

Marco Evoniuk

Marco Ray Evoniuk (born September 30, 1957 in San Francisco, California) is a retired male race walker from the United States, who represented his native country at three consecutive Olympic Games, starting in 1984. Evoniuk had qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but was unable to compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes.

Pam Greene

Pam Greene (born February 15, 1954) is an American sprinter. She competed in the women's 200 metres at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Greene qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but was unable to compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. Greene ran on the 4x100 relay at the 1973 World University Games, and was AIAW Champion in 1973 in the 200 metres. She also received one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes.

Rod Ewaliko

Rod Ewaliko (born April 18, 1954) is an American track and field athlete known for the Javelin throw. He was the 1983 National Champion and won the 1980 Olympic Trials to become a member of the team that did not participate in the Olympics due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He was one of 461 athletes to receive a Congressional Gold Medal instead. Ewaliko would finish in second place in the National Championships five times. He threw in two other Olympic Trials, finishing sixth in 1976 and was unable to land a legal throw in the finals of 1984.Ewaliko represented the United States in several international competitions, finishing fourth in the 1977 and 1981 World Cup, sixth at the 1979 Pan American Games, and eleventh at the 1983 World Championships. He represented Athletics West. He threw collegially for the University of Washington where he was one of the four U of W athletes to sweep the throwing events at the 1976 Pac-10 Championships, a feat that has not been duplicated. His personal best of 90.66 m (297 ft 5 in), thrown at UCSB on February 25, 1984 ranks as the 41st best effort with the old style javelin.

Switzerland at the 1980 Summer Olympics

Switzerland competed at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, USSR. In partial support of the American-led 1980 Summer Olympics boycott, Switzerland competed under the Olympic Flag instead of its national flag. 73 competitors, 67 men and 6 women, took part in 45 events in 10 sports.

Walter McCoy (athlete)

Walter McCoy (born November 15, 1958) is an American former sprinter who qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but was unable to compete due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. He did however receive one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes. He did compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics.A native of Daytona Beach, Florida, McCoy attended Seabreeze High School. The Orlando Sentinel named McCoy among their list of the best high school track and field athletes in Central Florida history.

West Germany at the Olympics

West Germany competed at the Olympic Games between 1952 and 1988. While in 1952 - Germany's first Olympics after World War II and the Partitions of Germany - there was a de facto West German team, given East Germany refused to collaborate, its results are counted towards Germany. Likewise, between 1956 and 1964 both countries competed together under the United Team of Germany flag. It was not until 1968 that a full-fledged West German team appeared, and it competed in all the Olympics but the 1980 Summer Olympics - as it adhered to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott - until 1988. Afterwards, the German reunification in 1990 reestablished the German team.

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