Olympic Games become Political

This post was awarded a “red star” from the editorial team.

Mischa, the 1980 Olympics Mascot

The 1980 Olympics is marked down in history, not necessarily for the sporting events and the athletes that participated, but for the political conundrum that sprang forth before the games even started. The 1980 Olympic Games went through difficulty due to the United States decision, along with 55 other countries, to boycott the Olympics. The political difficulties in the Moscow Olympic Games can trace its origins back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. According to Freeze, the invasion of 1979 came as a result of a meeting of the Politburo who decided to invade Afghanistan due to the importance of the region, “popular opposition to the Afghan government, and rumours that Kabul was making overtures to the American government” (Freeze, 446). Unfortunately, this invasion had disastrous results for the Soviet Union’s “international position” (Freeze, 446). The boycotting of the 1980 Olympic Games, by the U.S. and other countries, give insight into how the status of the Soviet Union was shaky and much of the world censured the communist nation for their actions in Afghanistan.

Emblem of XXII Olympic Games.svg

Emblem of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow

The 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow led to further tension between the Soviet Union and other parts of the world, especially the Unites States. In an 1980 editorial titled, “The Price of Ambition,” the editorial calls out the “scheming enemies of the Olympic movement.” The article shines light on the Soviet Union by stating how the country is doing all of its necessary duties while the countries like the U.S. are inappropriately interfering. The articles goes so far as to note that “certain politicians have brazenly interfered in the international athletic movement, their aim being to wreck the Moscow Olympics to please the personal ambitions of US President Carter.” The Soviet Union scolded the U.S. and Carter, personally, for destroying the purpose of the games by turning it into a political event. A Current Digest article, “Let the Olympic Flame Burn,” made several interesting statements. The article denied the invasion of Afghanistan as the real reason for the boycott, it said that the real reason was the U.S was simply trying to prevent the games from happening in a socialist country “so the truth about our country. . . would not become known to the international community.” The article and editorial shed light on the growing tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union at this time. As the Olympic Games occurred during the midst of the Cold War, the tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the games simply served as another problem on top of their many political issues.

The spectators to the Olympic Games did not provide much international diversity as many were from the Soviet Union. In fact, 3.9 million of the 5.2 million tickets sold for the Games were bought by Soviets. Therefore, the spectators also provide insight into how the 1980 Olympic Games was a shadow of the previous games due to the political difficulties that arose.

All in all, the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow reveal the how the Soviet Union’s image was tainted by the invasion of Afghanistan. The tension continued to rise between the United States and the Soviet Union during this time. The conflicts of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow revealed that the struggles of the Cold War continued to run full steam ahead.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

“1980 Moscow Olympics.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed November 16, 2014. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1980olympics&Year=1980&navi=byYear.

“The Price of Ambition.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed November 16, 2014.http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1980pravda2&SubjectID=1980olympics&Year=1980.

Bolshakov, V. “Let the Olympic Flame Burn.” Current Digest of the Russian Press 34, no. 32 (1980): 14-15. Accessed November 16, 2014. http://dlib.eastview.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/browse/doc/13626902.

Mischa Image Retrieved from: http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1980olympics&Year=1980&navi=byYear.

Olympic Games Emblem Image Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980_Summer_Olympics.



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Olympic Games become Political

  1. cpurvis2 says:

    It was so interesting diving deeper into why the US (and other countries) boycotted the 1980 Olympics; growing up, I often heard this, but was never exactly sure why. Also, your primary sources and external links are fantastic! Great post!

  2. jslattery says:

    I don’t often agree with the Soviet Union, but I agree with them that the U.S. and other countries shouldn’t have boycotted the Olympics to make a political statement. It seems that the real losers were the athletes that didn’t go.

  3. Kelly Cooper says:

    jslattery-I actually found it interesting in my research that some athletes did go by participating under the Olympic Flag. I am sympathetic to the athletes that trained for four years to the Olympics, only to have their country boycott the Games.

Leave a Reply