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What is the correct timeline of events for the boycott of the Olympic Games 1980 in Moscow

What is the correct timeline of events for the boycott of the Olympic Games 1980 in Moscow

Coming from the recent question of How did the US government manage to enforce the 1980 boycott of the Olympic Games in Russia? and a comment in that thread I kept wondering.

Who was the first and who most influential (ex-) Soviet citizen calling for a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow 1980? How is the timeline of events from just some different Wikipedia articles reconcilable?

The English Wikipedia describes the events leading to the boycott as gaining momentum:

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, a fortnight after the invasion of Afghanistan. At that moment, not many of the member governments were interested in the proposal. The idea began to gain popularity in early January when Russian 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.

Whereas the French Wikipedia names another date for the Carter declaration:

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 prompted US President Jimmy Carter to issue an ultimatum on 20 January 1980: if Soviet troops did not withdraw within a month, the United States could boycott the Moscow Olympics in the summer of 1980. After a meeting on April 24, USOC Chief Robert Kane told the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the USOC would be ready to send a team to Moscow if there was a "dramatic change in the international situation". On January 26, 1980, Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark announced that, like the United States, Canada could boycott the Olympic Games if the Soviets had not left Afghanistan by February 20, 1980.
French Wikipedia: Boycott des Jeux olympiques d'été de 1980

The Spanish Wikipedia cites the same dates as the French one, but this can not be subject of a simple majority vote. The Italian Wikipedia seems to be even more deviating concerning dates:

In the United States, in the autumn of the same year, presidential elections would have taken place and the democratic president Jimmy Carter, also to regain some popularity, began to promote a boycott of the Moscow Olympics and in a short time launched his message: if the USSR had not withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan by June, the United States would not have participated in the upcoming Moscow Olympics. The Carter proposal was not entirely original: for some years now, some human rights organisations had been proposing a boycott of the Olympics for serious Soviet violations of human rights.
Italian Wikipedia: Giochi della XXII Olimpiade /(Machine translated, please recheck)

There seem to be a lot of small differences in the narrative between Wikipedias and those almost leading to outright contradictions in the details when compared to the German Wikipedia:

Even before the location for the 1980 Summer Games was determined, there were already isolated voices in the United States to attach conditions to a possible award of the contract to Moscow. After Moscow's election, more and more people voted to make the participation of US athletes dependent on the question of the treatment of opponents of the regime in the Soviet Union, which was supported by the open boycott appeal of the Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukowski. The Western states saw this as an effective means of exerting pressure against their political opponents, as they were speculating on the Soviet interest in allowing their first games to run undisturbed for prestige reasons alone. In addition, the economic damage that would be caused solely by an American absence was also taken into account. In the USA, the reason for a possible boycott was also the non-accreditation of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, formerly co-financed by the CIA and now declared government channels by the Carter administration, which had already been refused approval by the IOC at the last Innsbruck Winter Games because they did not comply with IOC rules. The situation was similar with the Soviet refusal to grant visas to Israel on account of its sporting relations with South Africa.

The campaign started by Bukowski consisted mainly of:
Vladimir Bukovsky, "How Russia breaks the rules of the Games", letter to The Daily Telegraph, 2 October 1979; “Games Russians play”, Wall Street Journal, 6 October 1979;"Do athletes want the KGB to win the Olympics?" News of the World, 20 January 1980.

While Sacharov was arrested on January 22, 1980 and sent into internal exile

to Gorky, now Nizhny Novgorod, a city that was off limits to foreigners.

meaning severly limited possibilities to communicate? Whereas Bukowski was exchanged into the West as early as December 18, 1976. Now it's almost needless to say that the German Wikipedia doesn't even mention the name of Sacharov? Moscow was chosen to hold the games as early as October 23, 1974.

Bukovskii also collaborated with the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry (the 35's) in a campaign they launched in summer 1978 for a boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Bukovskii helped kick off the boycott campaign with a letter to The Times in August 1978, signed by him and others, which called on the International Olympic Committee to remove the 'Olympic cachet' from the games. Over the next couple of years, Bukovskii consistently argued that the human rights situation in the USSR contravened the spirit of the Olympic movement.
Bukovskii also built up an impressive set of connections in the USA. He met President Carter at the White House in early March 1977, and on the same visit met Senator Jackson and his then aide, Richard Perle, who was to remain a good friend.
Philip Boobbyer: "Vladimir Bukovskii and Soviet Communism", The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 87, No. 3 (July 2009), p456-466.

When did the plans and calls for a boycott come into being? Even in fringe circles, which might be much earlier than expected, who were these "isolated voices"? Which were the most important voices when the decision started to take form or was finalised?


Jimmy Carter’s Disastrous Olympic Boycott

Nicholas Evan Sarantakes is associate professor in the strategy and policy department at the U.S. Naval War College. He is the author of Dropping the Torch: Jimmy Carter, the Olympic Boycott, and the Cold War, from which this article was adapted. (The views expressed here are his alone and do not represent the policy of the U.S. Navy or the Department of Defense.)

Muhammad Ali was exhausted as he clambered from a plane on a tarmac in Tanzania as the waiting throng exploded with enthusiasm. “ALI, ALI, ALI,” the crowd chanted. By all appearances, the former champion’s arrival in Dar es Salaam looked familiar enough: exactly like the humanitarian missions to which the boxer had become accustomed. But this was different, and Ali—who had been doing charity work in India the day before—was groggy. Worst of all, he was unsure about why he was even there.

In a plan that seemed like a good one when it was hatched, U.S. State Department officials were dispatched to India in January 1980 to convince the boxing legend and Olympic gold medalist to help them lobby African countries to support a proposed American boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow. The boycott had been ordered by President Jimmy Carter in response to the recent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but the White House knew that a failure to get other nations to similarly boycott could embarrass the U.S. and render its move to sit out the games ineffective. Now the president was in bad need of assistance in selling the plan abroad—and the boxing legend was needed in Africa. Ali, offended by the Russian invasion himself, agreed to lend a hand.

The night before he left for Tanzania, the first stop on the diplomatic tour, Ali had a late-night meeting with the Soviet ambassador to India, Yuli Vorontsov, who tried to convince Ali not to make the trip. Vorontsov failed, but the exhausted boxer spent his flight sleeping and arrived in Africa poorly informed and was quickly rebuffed. Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, insulted that Carter had sent a mere athlete to discuss the boycott, refused to meet with the special envoy. Ali was hustled into a press conference that quickly became combative. The boxer was stunned when asked if he was a puppet of the White House. “Nobody made me come here and I’m nobody’s Uncle Tom,” he said.

When Carter called to get an update, the news was not good. “Ali began to talk about jumping ship,” one member of the delegation reported to the president. In a meeting with the Tanzanian minister of youth and culture, Chediel Mgonja, someone slipped him a note, calling him a stooge of Jimmy Carter. The mission limped along, though it never recovered from the bad press. Sports columnist Shirley Povich of the Washington Post declared, “The whole fiasco was not all Ali’s fault. Much of the blunder can be traced to the White House.” An editorial in the Economist dryly noted: “It seemed, no doubt, like a good idea at the time.” As a metaphor for the larger American struggle to initiate a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, the Ali trip was a good one.

Muhammad Ali meets with Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi to enlist support for the Olympic boycott. | AP Photo

The sight of Soviet tanks rumbling into Afghanistan in December 1979 can easily be regarded as the moment the stage was set for the U.S. boycott. But conditions had been developing for years as the 1970s, a period of managed competition between the two superpowers, came to a close. It was a time when the Cold War was supposedly less dangerous, but still ongoing. While Americans saw themselves making economic concessions in return for good Soviet behavior and negotiating from a position of equality with Moscow, the Kremlin considered the concessions a reward for its military buildup.

It was against this backdrop that Kremlin leaders decided to make their move in Afghanistan. The invasion was the Soviet Union’s first grab of new territory since the end of World War II. Where Washington saw communist aggression, the perspective was significantly different in Moscow. Soviet leaders wanted to bolster a flailing regime in their backyard, a short-term maneuver of no real importance to any other country. They expected few international repercussions. It never occurred to them that it would spoil the Olympic party they planned to host the next summer.

I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but the patriotic thing to do is for us to send a team over there and whip their ass.”

Perhaps nobody saw the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in more dire terms than Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s national security adviser and a hard-line cold warrior. “Afghanistan is the seventh state since 1975 in which communist parties have come to power with Soviet guns and tanks, with Soviet military power and assistance,” Brzezinski told Carter.


The 1980 Moscow Olympics Boycott

On this day 37 years ago, the United States Olympic Committee voted to support Jimmy Carter's call for a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. The vote followed a speech by Vice President Walter Mondale, who advanced the administration's rationale for the boycott. President Carter believed the US could no longer support the Moscow-hosted Olympics after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 and staged a coup to install Soviet loyalist Babrak Karmal as president. In response to the invasion, the Carter administration demonstrated a more muscular approach to the USSR:

“To show the Soviet Union that it cannot invade another nation and still conduct business as usual with the United States, our country has embargoed 17 million tons of grain, tightened controls on high technology trade… and offered to help other sovereign states in the region to maintain their security.”

With this stringent foreign policy in mind, Mondale claimed that US participation in the Moscow Olympics would run counter to these efforts and be seen as an implicit approval of the Soviets’ continued aggression in Afghanistan.

Mondale distilled the singular importance of the US and its allies’ response to the Moscow Olympics, linking this to the broader US approach to the USSR that reflected the escalating tensions between the two nations:

“Above all, the decision you will make today is not a choice between a sports issue and a national security issue for the President and Congress have made it clear that the Olympic boycott is a genuine element of America’s response to the invasion of Afghanistan… It is a keystone in our call to our allies for solidarity… And thus it is also a referendum on America’s character and fundamental values.”

Following Mondale’s emphatic address, the USOC agreed with President Carter’s proposal and voted to uphold this boycott of the Moscow Olympics. More than 60 other countries joined in the boycott in a significant moment in Cold War cultural history.

For more on the boycott and Olympics history, listen to CWIHP's Sport in the Cold War podcast, and subscribe on Soundcloud and iTunes.


Philip Barker: Fighting the 1980 Olympic boycott

Forty years ago this week, a deadline imposed on the Olympic Movement expired.

It had been set by United States President Jimmy Carter who threatened a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics unless Soviet Union forces withdrew from Afghanistan by February 20.

"Our decision is irrevocable, we will not participate," he announced.

Carter had strong backing from Governments in Australia, Canada and Great Britain and even sent Muhammad Ali as a special envoy to persuade other countries to his cause.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Lord Killanin said, "We acknowledge that the Olympic Movement, as well as all international sport, is facing grave dangers.

"We must protect all athletes of the world, and this is why we call upon Governments, public opinion and the mass media to help us to save the Olympic ideals."

In early February, the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) gathered for their General Assembly in Mexico City.

ANOC President, Mexican businessman Mario Vasquez Rana, issued a statement which rejected outside pressures, "whether of a political, religious or economic nature".

He described the relationship between the IOC and ANOC as one of ‘’father and son.”

The hand of the sporting community strengthened aggressive speech by American Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at the IOC session held in Lake Placid before the Winter Olympics and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher adopted the same bullish tone.

"We have concluded a boycott of the Olympics by citizens of the free world would be one of the most effective measures to bring home to the Soviet Government and Russian people, the abhorrence in which their actions in Afghanistan are held," Vance said.

Resistance to the boycott was now growing from athletes, National Olympic Committees (NOC), International Federations and even a Prince.

United States President Jimmy Carter had led the boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow in protest at the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan the previous year ©Getty Images

The athlete lobby included 79 athletes who put their names to an International Athletes Club (IAC) letter to Downing Street deploring the boycott.

"We affirm our right to take part in the Olympic Games in Moscow," the letter read.

"We would now like the right and opportunity of preparing ourselves free of Government pressure.

"We make it clear we do not support Soviet domestic and foreign policies but we are not prepared to preside over the destruction of the Olympic Movement. "

Thatcher replied, "I understand and sympathise with the feelings of athletes who have trained for years with the object of participating.

"But we know that for the Soviet Union sport is a branch of politics.

"It is clear that the Soviet authorities will claim participation in the Olympics as endorsement of their aggression in Afghanistan and their propaganda machine will make use of this."

In April, the sporting world gathered for crisis meetings at Lausanne’s Palace Hotel in mid April.

"I think the future of the entire Olympics will be on the line this week." said an unnamed senior official.

The key meetings included IOC Executive Board members, Moscow 1980 Organising Committee leaders, NOC leaders and the Presidents of the Olympic International Federations.

Among the participants was the President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), Prince Philip.

"I was frankly astounded to hear that he had arrived in view of the attitude of the British Government towards the Games." said IOC President Killanin.

As FEI President, Prince Philip would have expected to attend the Moscow Games as he did at Montreal 1976.

"I see no way I can go." he said.

Asked about his own feelings, he replied, "That’s beside the point isn’t it?"

Lord Killanin, President of the International Olympic Committee, worked tirelessly to try to minimise the damage caused by the US-led boycott of Moscow 1980 ©Getty Images

Thomi Keller, President of the General Association of International Sports Federations read the official statement after the meeting.

‘"The Olympic Federations, being aware of the reasons being advanced by different Governments for putting pressure on National Olympic Committees to boycott the Games, protest energetically against such pressure," he said.

"They declare their belief that the boycotting of a sporting event is an improper way of trying to obtain a political end and that the real victims of any such action are the sportsmen and women."

Then Keller also revealed, "It took quite an effort to get the text approved by everyone.

"A lot of people collaborated and Prince Philip even made the final touches to the draft.

Killanin recalled, "At that moment I could feel a movement to the telephones amongst the reporters."

After the initial headlines, Buckingham Palace press spokesmen moved into overdrive.

They insisted that the Prince "used his best efforts to modify the statement on which there was no vote.

"He was present at the discussion but he had no part in any resolution."

Some accused Keller of deliberate ambiguity to make a political point.

Yet in his memoirs, Killanin later insisted that the Prince had supported the opposition to a boycott.

"We lunched at the same table," he said.

"It is clear that in his conversation with other people at the table, some of them formed the impression he was opposed to the Thatcher support of the boycott."

Meanwhile, in the US, 18 amateur athletes, including 1976 long jump gold medallist Arnie Robinson and discus champion Mac Wilkins, filed Federal court proceedings to overturn the boycott, but their attempt was in vain.

West Germany, Japan and Canada also voted not to attend.

There came a boost from Paris.

The French National Olympic Committee voted unanimously to compete in Moscow.

The decision was "on sporting grounds alone".

"We don’t want athletes to be used in politics." French NOC President Claude Collard said.

Many were encouraged by the actions of sports officials in Australia and Great Britain, both ever present at the Summer Games.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted British athletes to support the US-led boycott of Moscow 1980 but BOA chairman Sir Dennis Follows was an opponent to the call ©Getty Images

British Olympic Association chairman Sir Denis Follows was prominent amongst those who resisted Government pressure and in Australia, IOC member David McKenzie was similarly influential.

The Irish and Dutch voted to go to Moscow by a convincing margin and the Swedes were unanimous.

In May, 18 European National Olympic Committees gathered in Rome and formulated a resolution.

"Their mission is to defend the Olympic music and that it is their duty to permit participation in the Games by their athletes," it read.

"This participation is even more important in a period of tension and international conflicts, expressing as it does, a hope of mutual understanding for future generations."

They insisted "participation cannot be taken in any way to imply acceptance of ideology or political behaviour" and appealed to all countries "to follow their lead".

They resolved to "confine their activities to purely sporting activities" and also announced that they would not participate in the youth camp organised in connection with the Games.

They called upon the IOC to "ensure that in the course of the ceremonies no formal speeches will contain a political content",

Franco Carraro of Italy sounded the alert that "his country’s team might not be permitted to use their national flag".

He wished to be assured that the NOC in question "would not be penalised for using a different flag".

Regulations were eventually altered "to help those NOCs who were unable to use the flag of their own country".

The Finnish member Paavo Honkajuuri had already proposed the substitution of the Olympic flag and the wording of regulations was altered.

The word "delegation" replaced country in by-law 65 which related to anthems and flags.

This opened the way for the use of the Olympic or NOC flag at ceremonial occasions in Moscow.

Although Soviet IOC member Vitali Smirnov "warned of strong reaction from some NOCs if the protocol was changed" he too eventually agreed to the change.

Killanin estimated that 25 NOCs went to Moscow "which would not otherwise have taken part".

When the sport began, Britain's 100 metres breaststroke swimmer Duncan Goodhew was the first to see the Olympic flag raised.

The Soviet press reported his reaction.

"It was a pity that on this red letter day for me, the British flag was not raised," he said.

The most striking medal ceremony came at the Velodrome after Swiss cyclist Robert Dill-Bundi won the individual pursuit ahead of Alain Bondue of France and the Dane Hans-Henrik Oersted.

All three were greeted by the Olympic flag.

IOC President Killanin praised, "Those who showed their complete independence to travel to compete despite many pressures placed on them."

A total of 80 nations did compete in Moscow.

Organising chief Ignati Novikov described officials such as Killanin, Follows and McKenzie as "the true knights of Olympism".

They might just also have been the saviours of the Olympic Games themselves.


USOPC to Congress: Beijing Olympic boycott not the solution

DENVER (AP) — A boycott of next year's Beijing Olympics will not solve any geopolitical issues with China and will only serve to place athletes training for the games under a “cloud of uncertainty,” the head of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee wrote to Congress on Thursday.

CEO Sarah Hirshland sent the two-page letter that put a more official imprint on the long-held USOPC stance that Olympic boycotts harm athletes and do little to impact problems in host countries.

Her letter specifically addressed those who believe a boycott of the Winter Games next February would serve as an effective diplomatic tool to protest China's alleged abuses toward Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kong residents.

She said that while the USOPC is also troubled by actions in China that “undermine the core values of the Olympic movement . an athlete boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is not the solution to geopolitical issues.”

Hirshland offered a history lesson about the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980 in protest of the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. That prompted the Soviet Union and several Eastern bloc countries to respond in kind at the Los Angeles Games four years later. More than 450 U.S. athletes who had qualified for Moscow never had a chance to compete in the Olympics.

“To make matters worse, their sacrifice had arguably no diplomatic benefit,” Hirshland said. “The Soviet Union stayed in Afghanistan for another decade. . Both the 1980 and 1984 Games tainted Olympic history and showed the error of using the Olympic Games as a political tool.”

Activists, along with some members of Congress, have been pushing for a boycott, or to relocate the games. Last month, the Biden Administration got mixed up in articulating its own policy about a possible boycott the U.S. State Department suggested an Olympic boycott was possible, but a senior official later had to clarify by saying keeping the U.S. team home had not been discussed.

The choice of whether to boycott would ultimately be up to the USOPC, but political pressure could weigh heavily, especially with Congress becoming more involved in the U.S. Olympic team's operations in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that led to calls for more oversight and reform.

In her letter, Hirshland argued that the Olympics can be used to raise awareness of human rights issues. But she did not highlight the 1968 Olympics, which were punctuated by protests by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the likes of which the USOPC has said it would not punish going forward. Instead, Hirshland referenced Russia's passage of anti-LGBTQ legislation before the Sochi Games in 2014.

“The Olympic and Paralympic community shone a light on inequality in practice, and the Sochi Games became a turning point in the effort to highlight the contributions and inclusion of LGBTQ+ athletes in global sport," she wrote.

She said the new generation of Winter Olympians were working hard to represent the U.S. next year in Beijing.

“Please give them that chance," she said. "They do not deserve to train for the games under a cloud of uncertainty about American participation in the games.”


40 years later, U.S. boycott of Olympics in Moscow remains ‘horrible’

DENVER — By the time the news filtered to him, Edwin Moses had already left a promising engineering job to focus on a full-time career on the track.

He was lucky. The world-record hurdler already had an Olympic gold medal hanging on his wall from 1976.

Hundreds of other American athletes would never get their chance.

They were part of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team — the team that never made it to the Moscow Games after President Jimmy Carter spearheaded a now-infamous first-of-its-kind decision to boycott the Olympics.

The full board of the U.S. Olympic Committee rubber-stamped Carter’s decision 40 years ago today — April 12, 1980.

“I’d walked away from my career to get ready for the 1980 Olympics, and all was moot,” Moses, 64, told the Associated Press by phone. “So, it was horrible. For me, and for everyone.”

Moses said by the time the USOC’s unwieldy delegation of nearly 2,400 people met at the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo., on a Saturday morning in April, with Vice President Walter Mondale in attendance, it was all but a done deal that the U.S. team would not be traveling to Moscow.

Carter had begun the push in late 1979, with the Soviet Union pressing a military campaign into Afghanistan.

In his 2010 memoir, Carter called it “one of my most difficult decisions.” Maybe more telling, as former USOC spokesman Mike Moran wrote in a recap of the events leading to the boycott, was an exchange the late 1984 Olympic champion wrestler Jeff Blatnick had with Carter on a plane many years later.

“I go, ‘President Carter, I have met you before, I am an Olympian,’” Moran said in his retelling of Blatnick’s story. “He looks at me and says, ‘Were you on the 1980 hockey team?’ I say, ‘No sir, I’m a wrestler, on the summer team.’ He says, ‘Oh, that was a bad decision, I’m sorry.’”

Forty years later, there is virtually no debate about that conclusion. And the lingering irony of this year’s Games postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic isn’t lost on Moses.

“As an athlete, you lose one of your cat’s nine lives,” he said.

There will be a handful of could’ve-been 2020 Olympians who will not make it to 2021, because of age, injury or a changed qualifying procedure.

Of the 466 U.S. athletes who had qualified for Moscow in 1980, 219 would never get to another Olympics, Moran wrote.

Most of those who did would compete in 1984 against a less-than-full field. The Soviets and a number of Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the Los Angeles Games in a tit-for-tat retribution to the U.S. move four years earlier.

Moses romped to a victory in the 400-meter hurdles at the LA Coliseum in 1984, and he almost certainly would’ve won had the Soviets been there, too. He was the world-record holder and in the middle of a string of 107 straight victories in finals at 400 meters.

If there was any silver lining to the 1980 boycott, Moses believes it was the recalibration of the Olympic model.

During the years of the Moscow and Los Angeles boycotts and massive red ink from Montreal in 1976, the forces that had compelled Moses to quit his job — a profession unrelated to track and field — to retain his amateur status as an Olympian were exposed as unfair and unrealistic. The 1984 Games marked the beginning of the Olympics as a money-making venture and the beginning of the end of the strict rules regarding amateurism that put many Americans at a distinct disadvantage.

All good for those who were able to take advantage of it.

Many from that 1980 team, however, saw their Olympic careers shuttered without ever competing on the biggest stage.

“Nothing was ever done to celebrate the team, and a lot of those members aren’t around anymore,” Moses said. “We made the ultimate sacrifice in a sports world that no one was asked to do — and it was completely involuntary.”


Looking back: Why did U.S. boycott 1980 Olympics?

Jan. 21, 1980: In a State of the Union address, President Jimmy Carter tells the nation that the United States will not participate in the 1980 Olympic Games if the Soviets remain in Afghanistan. "I have notified the (U.S.) Olympic Committee that with the Soviets invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow." Carter gives the Soviets a deadline. If the Soviets do not begin withdrawing troops by 12:01 a.m. EST on Feb. 20, the U.S. will boycott the Moscow Olympics.

The exterior of Lenin Stadium with a statue of Lenin, which was the main site for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Spviet Union invasion into Afghanistan led to the United States' boycott of the event. Click on the PHOTO to see how events developed.

It has been 30 years since President Jimmy Carter decided that the United States would boycott the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. It is a decision that still stings most of the athletes and coaches it impacted.

Click on the PHOTO to see how events developed, leading to the only U.S.-led boycott of the Olympics.

The Register takes a look at local and U.S. Olympic team members and how they dealt with the boycott at the time and now.

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Olympic official Dick Palmer defied the Prime Minister

Dick Palmer was a member of the British Olympic Association, which voted to take part in Moscow.

Speaking to Peter Allen on 5 Live Daily, he said: &ldquoWe had letters by the score urging us not to go - but we passed a resolution to go to the Games and allow the individual athletes to make their decision to go or not."

The British hockey, fencing and equestrian teams all chose to stay away from Moscow. In total, almost 6,000 competitors from 81 countries arrived compared to the 10,000 expected.


The Failed Carter Boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics

As the Sochi, Russia, Olympics entered the field of news, the story of the failed Olympic boycott in 1980 instigated by Jimmy Carter was told in detail by Politico Sunday.

As Politico writes, Carter was eager to boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics in response to the Soviet Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Carter went so far as to enlist Muhammad Ali as an emissary to African nations to elicit their support for a boycott. U.S. State Department officials were sent to India to convince Ali to take the job.

The night before Ali left for Tanzania, he met with the Soviet ambassador to India, Yuli Vorontsov. Vorontsov tried to dissuade Ali from the effort, but Ali refused him, and went ahead to Tanzania, even though he was not prepared with the proper information. Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere was insulted an athlete was sent instead of a diplomat, and Ali, disenchanted because he was accused of being Carter’s puppet, started to think of cutting himself loose from the job. Sports columnist Shirley Povich of the Washington Post was blunt, saying, “The whole fiasco was not all Ali’s fault. Much of the blunder can be traced to the White House.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s national security adviser and a hater of communism, said after the Afghan invasion, “Afghanistan is the seventh state since 1975 in which communist parties have come to power with Soviet guns and tanks, with Soviet military power and assistance.” Rolf Pauls, the West German ambassador to NATO, suggested that the world boycott the Moscow Olympics. Lloyd Cutler, the White House counsel, argued to the National Security Council that the United States should boycott the Olympics only if other strong moves were made.

However, Vice-President Walter Mondale loved the idea, saying a boycott “could capture the imagination of the American people.” Cutler came around he realized that by simply seizing passports of the athletes the objective could be achieved.

Some within the media loved the idea. The Washington Post‘s Robert G. Kaiser, a former correspondent in Moscow, wrote, “There should be no underestimating the significance the Soviets themselves put on their selection. They have been treating this Olympiad as one of the great events of their modern history.” He added that a boycott “would be a tremendous blow to Soviet prestige but perhaps more significant, the collapse of this Olympiad would send a genuine shock through Soviet society.”

CIA Director Adm. Stansfield Turner was not so happy he said, “The Soviets would also be able to play the role of an aggrieved party before a partially sympathetic international audience and to utilize international disagreements over the boycott to exacerbate tensions between the U.S. and non-boycotting (or reluctantly boycotting) states, probably including some close U.S. allies.”

Although 55% of Americans favored a boycott, Olympians hated it. Julian Roosevelt, an American member of the International Olympic Committee, asserted, “Any boycott isn’t going to change the Soviets’ mind and isn’t going to get troops out of Afghanistan. I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but the patriotic thing to do is for us to send a team over there and whip their ass.” Al Oerter, a four-time Olympic gold medal winner with one more shot at age 42, echoed, “The only way to compete against Moscow is to stuff it down their throats in their own backyard.”

Meeting with his foreign policy team, Carter said, “It’s the toughest question of all for me… I don’t want the onus for the failure of the Olympics to fall exclusively on the United States… It must be seen as a legitimate worldwide political reaction to what the Russians are doing in Afghanistan.”

Carter announced the boycott on Jan. 20, on Meet the Press, asserting, “Unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan,” Carter would insist “that the Olympic games be moved from Moscow to an alternative site, or multiple sites, or postponed, or cancelled.”

Announcing the one-month deadline was a mistake it left Carter with no wiggle room. Yet Carter was adamant, saying, “Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.”

International Olympic Committee President Lord Killanin scoffed at Carter: “There is no alternative besides Moscow anymore. It’s Moscow or nothing.” Carter’s Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti felt that the only way to make the boycott work was to convince the United States Olympic Committee, or force Congress to do his dirty work for him and prohibit American participation by some means. In his State of the Union speech soon after the boycott announcement, Carter declared, “Neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet Union’s ambassador to Washington, was stunned by Carter’s stance, writing later, “For all my experience of anti-Soviet campaigns in the United States, I had never encountered anything like the intensity and scale of this one. What particularly caught my attention was the president’s personal obsession with Afghanistan.”

Olympians were not only worried that they could not compete, but also at the chance Carter’s boycott could wreck the Olympic movement. Bob Mathias, the legendary gold medalist who later was a four-term congressman from California and served as the director of the Olympic Training Center at the time of Carter’s action, said, “We’re going to fight to the end. We’re fighting for the life of the Olympic Games. It’s almost too late. I’m afraid it might be.”

In early February, Carter sent Lloyd Cutler to demand that the Olympics be postponed or canceled from Lord Killanin. Killanin later wrote, “I was, as it turned out, to get a great shock. I discovered that Cutler had not flown in from Washington to discuss, but rather instruct. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Afghanistan affair, the judgment of one man, already scrambling for his political life in the American presidential election campaign… had turned the Olympic arena into what was to be its own battleground.”

Then came the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Just before they started, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance spoke at an event opening the Games. He said, “Let me make my government’s position clear. We will oppose the participation of an American team in any Olympic Games in the capital of an invading nation.”

Phil Wolff, the chief of staff of the Lake Placid games, was shocked. He said later:

That night was the only time in my life I’ve been embarrassed to be an American. I spent three years fighting in World War II. Nobody has a deeper love of this country than I do, but that was not right to be so derogatory and political when we’re supposed to be welcoming all our guests from around the world.

Cutler wrote legislation giving Carter legal authority to prevent the U.S. Olympic Committee from being a part of the games (USOC) and banning U.S. media from covering the Summer Games. The Department of Justice protested, arguing that Congress did not even give the president the power to control the media even if there were a war.

Meanwhile, at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the U.S. hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviets, firing up American enthusiasm. A White House aide informed Brzezinski, “The Olympic situation seems to be disintegrating. If we are not careful, our magnificent hockey win may fuel domestic sentiment against the boycott.” Brzezinski decided to give in, and was joined by Nelson Ledsky, head of the State Department task force on the boycott, who echoed to Vance in early March, “The starch seems to be slowly going out of our boycott effort.”

British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher said she would not seize the passports of British athletes, or any similar action to support the boycott. In mid-March, U.S. invitations to 25 countries to organize alternative games only convinced twelve countries to attend the meeting.

The last-ditch effort meant Carter needed the USOC. In late March, there was a meeting in the East Room of the White House. When Carter entered, none of the athletes stood or applauded. Carter said to them, “I can’t say at this moment what other nations will not go to the Summer Olympics in Moscow. Ours will not go. I say that not with any equivocation the decision has been made. It’s not a pleasant time for me. You occupy a special place in American life.”

On March 22, France, Spain, and Italy agreed to attend the Moscow games Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, also said it would go. Carter finally did convince the USOC to support the boycott, although many were unhappy one delegate said, “I feel I have no choice but to support the president or be perceived as supporting the Russians,” a delegate remarked. “I resent that.”

Eighty countries attended the Moscow games in 1980 36 world records were set.


USOPC to Congress: Beijing Olympic boycott not the solution

DENVER — A boycott of next year’s Beijing Olympics will not solve any geopolitical issues with China and will only serve to place athletes training for the games under a “cloud of uncertainty,” the head of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee wrote to Congress on Thursday.

CEO Sarah Hirshland sent the two-page letter that put a more official imprint on the long-held USOPC stance that Olympic boycotts harm athletes and do little to impact problems in host countries.

Her letter specifically addressed those who believe a boycott of the Winter Games next February would serve as an effective diplomatic tool to protest China’s alleged abuses toward Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kong residents.

She said that while the USOPC is also troubled by actions in China that “undermine the core values of the Olympic movement … an athlete boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is not the solution to geopolitical issues.”

Hirshland offered a history lesson about the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980 in protest of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan. That prompted the Soviet Union and several Eastern bloc countries to respond in kind at the Los Angeles Games four years later. More than 450 U.S. athletes who had qualified for Moscow never had a chance to compete in the Olympics.

“To make matters worse, their sacrifice had arguably no diplomatic benefit,” Hirshland said. “The Soviet Union stayed in Afghanistan for another decade. … Both the 1980 and 1984 Games tainted Olympic history and showed the error of using the Olympic Games as a political tool.”

Activists, along with some members of Congress, have been pushing for a boycott, or to relocate the games. Last month, the Biden Administration got mixed up in articulating its own policy about a possible boycott the U.S. State Department suggested an Olympic boycott was possible, but a senior official later had to clarify by saying keeping the U.S. team home had not been discussed.

The choice of whether to boycott would ultimately be up to the USOPC, but political pressure could weigh heavily, especially with Congress becoming more involved in the U.S. Olympic team’s operations in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that led to calls for more oversight and reform.

In her letter, Hirshland argued that the Olympics can be used to raise awareness of human rights issues. But she did not highlight the 1968 Olympics, which were punctuated by protests by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the likes of which the USOPC has said it would not punish going forward. Instead, Hirshland referenced Russia’s passage of anti-LGBTQ legislation before the Sochi Games in 2014.

“The Olympic and Paralympic community shone a light on inequality in practice, and the Sochi Games became a turning point in the effort to highlight the contributions and inclusion of LGBTQ+ athletes in global sport,” she wrote.

She said the new generation of Winter Olympians were working hard to represent the U.S. next year in Beijing.

“Please give them that chance,” she said. “They do not deserve to train for the games under a cloud of uncertainty about American participation in the games.”


Watch the video: 2014 Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony (January 2022).