The Political Olympics: Moscow, Afghanistan, and the 1980 U.S. Boycott

By Derick L. Hulme Jr. | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

HISTORICAL USES OF SPORT

Before proceeding to the events comprising the 1980 Olympic boycott, a brief summary of the political component of past Olympics, both of the ancient and of the modern eras, will be undertaken. This will provide a historical perspective in order better to assess recent events.

The ancient Games, far from being innocent sporting contests, were political affairs of the highest magnitude. The virtual deification of the victorious by their respective city-states, and the corresponding castigation of the defeated, reflected the symbolic significance attached to the Games by the political units sponsoring the contests. 1 Monetary rewards were offered by leaders in order to spur their subjects to greater achievements. One historian observed, " Solon, the archon of Athens in the early sixth century BC, legislated a reward of 500 drachmas for every Athenian who won at the ancient Olympics in an effort to increase Athens' image."2 The exclusion of all non-Greeks from participation at the height of the Games further attests to their political character. 3

If Baron de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games in 1896, either mistakenly idealized the ancient Greek Games or believed he could drastically alter the nature of such an international event, his vision would be shattered by the evolution of the modern Olympics. Political considerations dictated the exclusion of Germany from participation in 1920 and 1924, as they did for Soviet Russia beginning in 1920. 4 The movement to boycott the Berlin Olympics of 1936, although unsuccessful, once again brought to the fore the significance of politics in international sports in general, and in the Olympics in particular.

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The Political Olympics: Moscow, Afghanistan, and the 1980 U.S. Boycott
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments iv
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Boycott Decision 17
  • 3 - The Domestic Campaign 21
  • 4 - The International Campaign 43
  • 5 - Consequences of the Boycott 75
  • 6 - Endemic Obstacles to the Boycott 89
  • 7 - U.S. Shortcomings 105
  • 8 - Evaluation of the Use of the Boycott 123
  • Notes 129
  • Selected Bibliography 169
  • Index 171
  • About the Author 181
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