Evaluation of the Use of the Boycott
The United States-sponsored boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics was a unique attempt to wield international sport in a politically punitive fashion. Nonetheless, certain lessons can be gleaned from the campaign that could be relevant to similar efforts in the future. State leaders should be cognizant both of the potential gains and probable risks inherent in the manipulation of sport for political advantage. Such awareness is a prerequisite for the adoption of appropriate policies capable of effective implementation.
The first factor that must be considered prior to any political utilization of international sport is the compatibility of a projected plan of action with the political and structural characteristics of sport itself. The U.S. boycott demonstrated that the politically peripheral nature of international sport enabled it to be utilized in a relatively low cost fashion. Carter could label the Soviet invasion "the most serious [crisis] since the last World War", 1 yet feel that the boycott was an adequate response. Short of violent countermeasures, an Olympic boycott was recognized as one of the more punitive actions that could be taken. Not only would the Soviets be adversely affected, the White House would not expose itself to undue domestic or foreign risks. Only the athletes and certain businesses were forced to sacrifice directly, a fact that minimized internal political repercussions. Internationally, failure to win the support of a particular nation was damaging to the perceived capacity of Washington to