The 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott was a boycott of the Moscow Summer Games led by a number of Western nations, most notably the United States. The orchestrators of the boycott claimed to be protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, stating that they would not send athletes to compete at the 1980 Summer Games unless Russia withdrew its troops. In 1984, the Soviet Union retaliated, boycotting the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and Russia was joined by a number of Eastern Bloc countries.
The 1980 boycott was a very interesting event in Olympics history, and some people mark it as a turning point in the history of the Olympics. Even today, the Olympics is supposed to be entirely free of politics, serving as a neutral meeting ground for the most talented athletes in the world to compete, socialize, and learn more about each other and their cultures. By choosing to boycott the Olympics, participating nations brought a political aspect to the event, and it has been difficult to shake politics out of the Olympics as a result.
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The Russian invasion of Afghanistan occurred in 1979, and it met with considerable opposition from the West, especially from American President Jimmy Carter. Carter stated his intent to encourage a boycott of the upcoming Olympics, and other Western allies followed suit. The International Olympic Committee protested that governments did not have authority over their National Olympic Committees, and that it was up to these committees to decide whether or not to send athletes to the Olympics. Carter retaliated by threatening to revoke the passports of athletes who traveled to Moscow to compete, flaunting the American stance in the 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott.
Several nations involved in the 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott, including the United States, declined to send athletes to the competition, and indicated that others would be penalized if they chose to attend under their national flag. Several other countries indicated that they would support the boycott, but they would not penalize athletes who wanted to travel to Moscow. As a result, athletes from several nations marched under the Olympic Flag, rather than their national flags, and the Olympic anthem was played during their medal ceremonies.
In retrospect, the 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott was not a very sound political or social move, with some critics believing that other diplomatic channels could have been more effective conduits for a discussion about the situation in Afghanistan. The boycott also set a precedent, raising the issue of future Olympic boycotts.