Jimmy Carter Orders An Olympics Boycott 40 Years Ago Today

A sports failure.  

It was 40 years ago today that United States President Jimmy Carter ordered the American Olympic Team to boycott the 1980 Moscow, Soviet Union Olympics. Carter felt that an Olympic boycott along with a trade embargo on grain, information technology and a limit to Soviet fishing in American waters would force the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. Carter’s goal was to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan after the Soviets invaded the country in 1979. On January 20, 1980 Carter issued a warning that the United States would not allow its athletes to compete in the Moscow summer event if the Soviets did not leave Afghanistan by February 20. On March 21, Carter made it official, the United States team which consisted of more than 160 athletes, coaches and support staff could not compete in the Moscow Games. To further emphasize that he was meaning business and American athletes could not compete Carter threatened to revoke the passport of an athlete who disobeyed his order. Carter did get other countries to follow his lead but was unable to persuade Britain, France, Greece and Australia to go along with his policy. Canada, West Germany, and Japan joined the boycott.

Carter’s initiative was a failure. The Soviet Union remained in Afghanistan until 1989. The Soviets and Warsaw Bloc countries boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. It would have been interesting to see a much stronger IOC interact with Carter and others over the boycott as the Olympic movement in 1980 was on the verge of imploding. Today, a very confident International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is telling Olympic athletes to shut and play adding the Olympics “must never be a platform to advance political or any other potentially divisive ends”. But the Olympics does provide a global political protest platform. Politics and the Olympics is nothing new.