The Games of the XXII Olympiad: Moscow, 1980
The most significant event of the Moscow Olympic Games took place over six months before the Opening Ceremonies when Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan on December 28, 1979. The invasion came ostensibly at the request of the Afghan leadership, but that leadership had been installed the day before by the Soviets. The world was outraged, and none more than American President Jimmy Carter. With the Moscow Olympics only months away, Carter announced that the U.S. team would boycott the Games and he encouraged other freedom-loving countries to do the same. Sixty-one countries did just that, making the boycott of 1980 the largest in Olympic history.
Of the eighty-one nations who did send athletes, many allowed individuals to decide for themselves whether to attend, so the ranks of world class competitors were further depleted by those who chose to protest on their own.
The Soviets seemed unfazed by the protest, and certainly realized the terrific propaganda potential of even a boycotted Olympics. Eager to show that the Soviet state was efficient and successful, they spent an unprecedented $9 billion in preparation for the Games. Though the pageantry was unmatched, in much of the world the Moscow Games passed with as little notice as any ordinary international track meet. Sixteen of the eighty-one teams that participated refused to parade their national flags in the Opening Ceremonies in support of the boycotting nations. Soviet television cameras deftly skipped over the protestors.