Worldsport

The story of the 1980 Moscow Olympic boycott

Updated 11:12 AM ET, Tue August 7, 2012
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The 1980 Moscow Olympics will be remembered as much for the athletes that were not there as the ones that were. The U.S. team boycotted the Games, at the urging of President Jimmy Carter's administration, in protest at the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Getty Images
A further 55 countries joined the boycott of the opening ceremony in Moscow. Here a choreographed show from the crowd and performers produce a hammer and sickle and the face of Lenin. Getty Images
One of the highlights of Moscow was the 800 meter final, which featured Great Britain's Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe. But the fastest man in the world over that distance in 1980 was not in the race. American runner Don Paige was so distraught at missing out he has never watched the final. Getty Images
Pressure had mounted for Great Britain to join the boycott, largely from the ruling Conservative Party, but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher relented and the athletes traveled to Moscow. Hulton Archive
Ovett famously beat Coe, the then world record-holder, in the 800m final. But Coe -- now the head of London 2012 -- would have his revenge, beating Ovett in the 1,500m final. Paige had been double 800 and 1,500m champion at the National Collegiate Athletic Association championships in the U.S. Hulton Archive
The boycott was one of the biggest crises to hit the Olympics. Some feared it might never recover. But despite a counter-boycott by the Soviet Union and its allies four years later, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics were a huge sporting and, perhaps equally as important, commercial success. The poster boy of those games was U.S. sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis. AFP/Getty Images
The Afghan war lasted another nine long years, costing the Soviet Union tens of thousands of lives. The army pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989 leaving behind an emboldened Mujahedeen militia and thousands of burnt out tanks and vehicles. AFP/Getty Images
The success of the boycott is still debated. President Carter's former vice president, Walter Mondale, believed that the pressure put on the regime justified the boycott. Each member of the U.S. team was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Getty Images