Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 21, 1980: Jimmy Carter announces the United States will be Boycotting the 1980 Summer Olympics

On March 21, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would not be participating in the 1980 Summer Olympics that were to be held in Moscow. The President's decision came after he had imposed a February 20th deadline for the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan. When his deadline fell on deaf ears he withdrew the United States from the Olympics in protest. 64 other countries showed support for Carter's decision by also refusing to participate in the Summer games. In this instance of politics and the sports world colliding the athletes were the ones who were most affected. These kids had worked their whole lives to get to the Olympics and for some of them it might have been there only chance to qualify for the games. There was a mixed response among the athletes after Carter made his decision, 44 of them were against it while 29 of them supported it, then 24 other athletes chose to stay neutral in the matter. Carter knew that the athletes were paying a price but he stood by his choice with strong conviction.

The Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan started on Christmas Eve of 1979 under Premier Leonid Brezhnev. His decision to invade came with heavy opposition from around the world. President Carter condemned Brezhnev and told the world the Soviet's were simply trying to control Afghanistan's oil supplies. The Soviet Union was entrenched in Afghanistan for 10 years. The conflict came very close to causing a World War. It is often referred to as The Soviet Union's Vietnam. Thousands were killed and wounded and millions of Afghanistan's citizens had to flee the country. In the end it is hard to say what it was all for. They finally withdrew in 1989 after billions of dollars and millions of lives had been affected by the conflict.

Carter's decision to boycott the 1980 Summer games was met with some resentment but it was also understood that the United States had to show that they would not condone the actions of the Soviet Union and their communist regime. The tension between the countries was nothing new and it was at an all time high. While some of the athletes made it known they didn't agree with the decision they had no choice but to live with it. In the grand scheme of things they were just playing a game while people were losing their lives during this invasion.

I can definitely feel for those kids who had worked so hard to reach the highest level and it's safe to say what happened to them was far from fair. With that said, you really have to look at a much bigger picture in a case like this one. There were lives at stake here and President Carter was trying to help save some of those lives by forcing the Soviet withdrawal. In the end the athlete's dreams were squashed and the Soviet's remained in Afghanistan. The tension only grew, the Soviet Union responded four years later by boycotting the 1984 Summer games that were set to be held in Los Angeles, 17 other countries joined their boycott of the '84 games. In both instances you can say both countries had put a political agenda ahead of the athletes that worked their entire lives just for a chance to compete with the best in the world. I'm sure if you were to talk with some of these athletes today they are still bitter and have every right to be. As an athlete you hope to be congratulated by the President after winning not being told by the President that you won't be able to compete over a political matter. It almost seems ridiculous really, but every now and then politics and sports collide. In my eyes anytime politics is involved in anything nothing real good comes out of it.

Here is a news archive from ABC about the boycott:

No comments:

Post a Comment