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Moscow Olympics of 1980


The city of Moscow hosted the Summer Olympic Games from July 19 to August 3, 1980. The International Olympic Committee awarded Moscow the games in 1974, in the hopes that international competition might contribute to détente. But superpower politics had a direct impact on these games. Under the leadership of the United States, sixty-two nations boycotted the Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during December of 1979. The Soviet government, along with its allies, retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. Great Britain, France, and Italy supported the condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but participated in the games.

The Moscow Olympic games were the first held in a socialist country. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, visibly aged, opened the games. The Soviet leadership intended to use the games to showcase the advantages of the socialist system. Toward that end the government ordered that the Moscow streets and parks be cleaned and that petty criminals and prostitutes be rounded up. Government officials also hoped that Soviet athletes would dominate the games. They were not disappointed. The USSR won 195 medals, including 80 gold; the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) won 126 medals, including 47 gold; followed by Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and Cuba in that order. Eightyone nations had participated in the Moscow games, and the USSR and its East European and other socialist allies won the vast majority of the medals. Soviet fans demonstrated poor sportsmanship by constantly jeering Polish and East German competitors. Since 1952, when the USSR first participated in the Olympic games, government officials recognized how gold, silver, and bronze medals

might be translated into propaganda achievements for the nation.

Some of the notable individual achievements of the games included gymnast Nadia Comaneci of Romania winning two medals; Soviet swimmer Vladimir Salnikov becoming the first to break fifteen minutes in the 1,500 meters; Teofilo Stevenson, a Cuban boxer, becoming the first boxer to win three gold medals in his division; Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin winning eight medals; Miruts Yifter of Ethiopia winning the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs in track; and Britain's Sebastian Coe outkicking countryman Steve Ovett in the 1,500 run. At the closing ceremony, it was said that the mascot of the Moscow Olympics, Misha the Bear, had a tear in his eye.

See also: afghanistan, relations with; sports policy; united states, relations with


Hulme, Derick L. (1990). The Political Olympics: Moscow, Afghanistan, and the 1980 U.S. Boycott. New York: Praeger.

Paul R. Josephson

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