Boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games

In 1974 the International Olympic Committee awarded the Soviet Union with the great opportunity to host the Summer Olympic Games of 1980 to Moscow. Unfortunately for Moscow the Olympic Games in 1980 would go down in history because of the politics that would arise before any of the games had even been started. The United States would end up leading a boycott of these Olympic games protesting the Soviets invasion of Afghanistan. Along with the United States boycotting, 55 other countries also boycotted the Olympic Games of 1980.

According to Siegalbaum, “Extraordinary measures were taken to prepare for this grand festival of sports” (Siegalbaum) Like in all Olympic games the host city goes through drastic changes to gear up for the games and new buildings are built, roads were paved, the city was cleaned up and they had “Misha” the bear who was the mascot for these Olympics on murals and flags all around the city. These games coming to Moscow bought many jobs to the city that were highly competitive and really was a time that the Soviets wanted to be proud of so they could show the world their pride as a country and how beautiful their country was.

“Misha” the mascot of the 1980 Olympics.

The problem the Soviets had during this time was to battle against the negative press that the Soviets were facing from other countries, mainly the United States, who did not support them invading Afghanistan. In 1979 the Soviet military invaded Afghanistan to help reinforce the country’s communist regime against Islamic rebel forces. According to Freeze, “In December of 1979, a rump meeting of the Politburo elected to intervene militarily because of the region’s strategic importance, popular opposition to the Afghan government, and rumors that Kabul was making overtures to the American government.” (Freeze , 446) On January 20th of 1980, President Jimmy Carter had gave an ultimatum to the Soviets and said that if they did not pull out from Afghanistan within one month than the United States would boycott the Olympics.


Despite the boycotts of the Olympic games in 1980 that were lead by the United States, the Soviet Union still had some success.  According to an article in The Current Digest of the Russian Press, “The attempt to silence the Olympics was not successful. The games were attended by 250,000 foreign participants , guests and tourists. More than 5,500 journalists covered them. About 5 million spectators attended the sports competitions; 1.5 billion watched the Games on television.” Many protesters even tried to say that the games were substandard but the fact was that 36 world, 74 Olympic and hundreds of national records were set.  So even though the United States and many other countries tried to silence the 1980 Olympics they did not succeed in trying to disrupt the Olympic movement and did not ruin the spirit the Soviet Union felt from these games. (V. Bolshakov.) In 1984 the Soviet Union rebelled and boycotted the Olympic games that were being held in the United States in Los Angeles.

comradeThis post was on Comrade’s Corner this week awarded by the editorial team!


  • Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • “Misha 1980 Olympic Bear – Google Search.” Misha 1980 Olympic Bear – Google Search. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. < 1980 olympic bear>.
  • “Moscow Olympics 1980 Boycott – Google Search.” Moscow Olympics 1980 Boycott – Google Search. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. < olympics 1980 boycott>.
  • Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Moscow Olympics.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. <;.
  • The Current Digest of the Russian Press,  No. 34,  Vol.32, September  24, 1980, page(s): 14-15.





5 thoughts on “Boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games

  1. Great post. I wrote about the Afghanistan invasion, and as your post clearly states it is no surprise the United States boycotted this event. However, this was a big step forward for Russia since they went through with the Olympics anyway. The fact that many thousands of people both watched and attended these games must have given Russia a better image throughout the world. Great post.


  2. I found it interesting that the Soviet Union was able to still hold the games and gain some success, despite them being boycotted by the United States. It is interesting to think that the United States used this tactic as a ploy to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan.


  3. I really like the interpretive angle you use here, and the post is formatted really nicely — love the newspaper article image, and the NBC news “flashback” is wonderful. Very cool to see all of the major players looking so young!


    1. This is just another way that the Cold War infiltrated every facet of life, even sports. The “Miracle on Ice,” and 72′ Summer Olympics basketball championships being two other great examples.


  4. I liked reading your post because I wrote about the summer olympic games as well, but I did not focus on the boycotting, just the games itself. I like how you not only discussed the boycotting and the protesting of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but mentioned some of the positives as well. One positive you included was how the games brought many jobs to the city. I enjoyed reading this!!


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