The Olympics of Historical Proportions

Olympic Matchbook Cover (1980) Source: Stanislas Dmitriev: Virtual Matchbox Label Collection. 1999.

Olympic Matchbook Cover (1980)
Source: Stanislas Dmitriev: Virtual Matchbox Label Collection. 1999.

The Olympic games of 1980 held in Moscow was one that would go down in history, but not because of the athletic showing that would occur. The Olympics were a huge event for the Soviet Union, which was trying to reinforcing a sense of national identity and well-being among citizens of the USSR. It represented an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the superiority of Soviet athletes as well as the achievements of Soviet socialism before a world-wide audience (Seventeen Moments). However, the Olympics that took place came with a price.

Led by the United States, around 60 countries boycotted the games because of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, though some athletes from some of the boycotting countries participated in the games, under the Olympic Flag.  As Smirnov emphasized, “athletes, fans and business circles are suffering as a result of the Washington administration’s unprecedented pressure. J. Carter is seeking to fence off the American public from the outside world with his own kind of ‘iron curtain.'” (EastView) This was a strong statement, but a true one as Carter did not believe that the United States should participate in games in a country that was fighting a war that many did not believe in. Still, Soviet fans flocked to even the most obscure events, filling venues to near capacity. In all, 5.2 million tickets were sold of which 3.9 million were purchased by Soviet citizens.

The Soviet Union Invasion of Afghanistan, as stated before, led to the largest boycott in the history of the Olympic movement where U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter took the lead in the call for a boycott of the 1980 Olympics. The effect significantly deepened the atmosphere of the Cold War and showed that the tension between the United States and Soviet Union were still very high. The boycott also lead to the boycotting of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics four years later by communist nations of Eastern Europe for supposed security reasons. Overall, the Moscow Olympics of 1980 was another event that showed the continuing tensions occurring in the Cold War, and that regardless of USSR trying to showcase its Soviet socialism it would not persuade any of the countries backing the United States to show their support.


East View: The World Prepares for the Moscow Games: THE DOORS ARE OPEN TO EVERYONE.-At the 1980 Olympics Organizing Committee’s Press Conference

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6 comments for “The Olympics of Historical Proportions

  1. Katie
    1 December, 2013 at 6:02 am

    This was a really great post that captured the extent of Cold War tension. The Soviet war in Afghanistan was controversial, resulting in the United States leading a boycott from the Moscow Olympics. I really liked your quote about Carter creating his own “iron curtain.” I thought it showed the hypocrisy at the time and highlighted the reach of Cold War tension in the 1980s.

  2. Connor Williams
    2 December, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    A great post! I like how you incorporate the larger context of the Cold War into the Olympics and the reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I also like that you tied the Soviet perspective on the American boycott into your post. We tend to forget that boycotting the Olympics is more than just a symbolic protest, it has real socio-economic consequences.

  3. jackscher
    2 December, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Nice post. An interesting time to think about this, given the calls to boycott the Winter Olympics in Russia.

  4. Hannah Martin
    3 December, 2013 at 3:24 am

    The Olympics are an amazing opportunity for the international community to come together to celebrate athletic achievement. Russia and the US were very clearly unwilling to put any differences aside in the name of competition, as the tensions between the two countries had been there for decades.

  5. rkw15
    3 December, 2013 at 5:46 am

    I really enjoyed your post. I think it points that the Cold War was not just caused by the Soviets but that the U.S. played a large role in creating tension on the international stage.

  6. hbh1391
    7 December, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Great and very interesting post on the Olympics.

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