1980 United States Olympic Team To Get A Museum Honor

A failed political strategy.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum is opening in Colorado Springs, Colorado soon and there will be a tribute to the 1980 United States team that never made it to the Moscow Olympics. No matter what the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says, the Olympic event is a political platform. The 1936 Berlin Games, the 1968 Mexico City Games, the banishment of South Africa from the 1964 Tokyo Games because of Apartheid, the 1976 African countries boycott of the Montreal Games are a few examples. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. In January, 1980 President Jimmy Carter went on NBC’s public affairs show, Meet the Press, and announced a deadline of February 20 for the Soviet Union to leave Afghanistan. He demanded “that the Olympic games be moved from Moscow to an alternative site, or multiple sites, or postponed or cancelled.” The Soviets heard Carter and ignored him.

Carter played hardball with the Soviets and denied the Soviets two items, grain and informational technology. He also limited Soviet fishing in American territorial waters.  The American athletes were threatened with having their passports revoked if any of them decided to go to Moscow and compete under a neutral flag. The United States team which consisted of more than 160 athletes, coaches and support staff could not compete in the Moscow Games. 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. One of the athletes who did not compete in the 1980 Games was Bach, a West German fencer. Bach won a gold medal at the politically charged Montreal Games in 1976. The Carter-led boycott was a political failure as the Soviet Union did not leave Afghanistan until 1989.

FILE – In this Feb. 22, 1980, file photo, the U.S. ice hockey team rushes toward goalie Jim Craig after their 4-3 upset win over the Soviet Union in a medal round match at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. Some of the U.S. players shown are Mark Johnson (10); Eric Strobel (19); William Schneider (25); David Christian (23); Mark Wells (15); Steve Cristoff (11); Bob Suter (20) and Philip Verchota (27). (AP Photo/File)