1980 Moscow, Russia

The 1980 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXII Olympiad, was celebrated in Moscow in the Soviet Union. In addition, theyachting events were held in Tallinn, and some of the preliminary matches and the quarter-finals of the football tournament were held in Leningrad, Kiev, and Minsk. The 1980 Games were the first to be staged in Eastern Europe.

The United States and a number of other countries boycotted the games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, though some athletes from some of the boycotting countries participated in the games, under the Olympic Flag. This prompted the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics. Some of the later events of the games were also nearly mired by the death and unauthorized mass funeral of the immensely popular and beloved singer-songwriter Vladimir Vysotsky.

Highlights of the Moscow Olympics

ñAlthough approximately half of the 24 countries that boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics (over the apartheid issue in South Africa) participated in these games, the 1980 Summer Olympics were disrupted by another, even larger, boycott led by the United States in protest of the 1979 Soviet war in Afghanistan. Many of the boycotting nations participated instead in the Liberty Bell Classic (also known as the “Olympic Boycott Games”) in Philadelphia.

ñEighty nations participated – the smallest number since 1956. However, the nations that did compete had won 71% of the medals, including 71% of the gold medals, at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

ñAs a form of protest against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, fifteen countries marched in the Opening Ceremony with the Olympic Flag instead of with their national flags, and the Olympic Flag and Olympic Hymn were used at Medal Ceremonies when athletes from these countries won medals. Competitors from one country – New Zealand – competed under their association flag, the flag of the New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association Some of the teams who marched under other than their national flags were depleted by boycotts by individual athletes, and others did not march.

ñItaly won four times as many gold medals as it did in Montreal and France multiplied its gold medal results by three. Romania won more gold medals than it had at any previous Olympics. In terms of total medals, this was Ireland’s most successful Olympics since Melbourne 1956. The same was true for Great Britain. “Third World” athletes qualified for more events and took more medals than at any previous Olympics.

ñ21% of the competitors were female – a higher percentage than at any previous Olympics.

ñThere were 203 events – more than at any previous Olympics.

ñ36 World records, 39 European records and 74 Olympic records were set. In total this was more records than were set at Montreal.

ñNew Olympic records were set 241 times over the course of the competitions and world records were beaten 97 times.

ñPrince Alexandre de Merode of Belgium, Chairman of the IOC Medical Commission, stated: “There were 9,292 drug tests. None positive”.

ñFour Olympic records set in 1980 still stood as of 2008 – East German women 4×100 metre relay 41.6 seconds; Shot Put Ilona Slupianek of East Germany 22.41 metres; Soviet Nadezhda Olizarenko 800 metres, 1:53.43; Modern Pentathlon Soviet Anatoli Starostin 5568 points.

ñThe impact of the boycott was mixed. Some events, like field hockey and equestrian sports, were hard hit. Others like boxing, judo, rowing, swimming, track and field and weightlifting actually had more participants than in 1976.

ñEight nations appeared for the first time at an Olympics – Angola, Botswana, Laos, Nicaragua, Seychelles, Mozambique and Cyprus. Zimbabwe also made its first appearance under that name; it had previously competed asRhodesia.

ñAthletes from 25 countries won Olympic gold (the same total as in the 1984 Games and one fewer than in the 1976 Games) and competitors from 36 countries became Olympic medalists.

ñMajor broadcasters of the Games were USSR State TV and Radio (1,370 accreditation cards), Eurovision (31 countries, 818 cards) and Intervision (11 countries, 342 cards). Asahi TV with 68 cards provided coverage for Japan, while OTI representing the Spanish-speaking world received 59 cards and the Seven Network provided coverage for Australia (48 cards). NBC, which had intended to be another major broadcaster, canceled its coverage in response to the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, and became a minor broadcaster with 56 accreditation cards, although the network did air highlights and recaps of the games on a regular basis. (ABC aired scenes of the opening ceremony during its Nightline program, and promised highlights each night, but the next night, the show announced that they could not air any highlights as NBC still had exclusive broadcast rights in the USA.) The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation almost canceled their plans for coverage after Canada took part in the boycott and was represented by nine cards.

ñThe television centre used 20 television channels, compared to 16 for the Montreal Games, 12 for the Munich Games, and seven for the Mexico City Games.

ñDuring the opening ceremony, Salyut 6 crew Leonid Popov and Valery Ryumin sent their greetings to the Olympians and wished them happy starts in the live communication between the station and the Central Lenin Stadium. They appeared on the stadium’s scoreboard and their voices were translated via loud speakers.

ñAccording to the Official Report, submitted to the IOC by the NOC of the USSR, total expenditures for the preparations for and staging of the Games were 862.7 million rubles, total revenues being 744.8 million rubles.

Sporting Events at the Moscow Olympics

Poland’s Władysław Kozakiewicz won the pole vault with a jump of 5.78m (18’11.5″) – only the 2nd pole vaulting world record to be established during an Olympics. The previous time had been at theAntwerp Olympics 1920. In the pole vault competition, despite pleas for silence in three languages, jeers, chants and whistles among the different factions in the crowd supporting French, Soviet and Polish pole vaulters could be heard. Immediately after Kozakiewicz secured his gold medal, he responded to the jeering Soviet crowds with an obscene bent elbow gesture. This gesture is now referred to in Polish as “Kozakiewicz’s gesture”.

Yuriy Sedykh (USSR) won gold in the hammer throw event. 4 of his 6 throws broke the world record of 80m.No hammer thrower in the world had ever achieved this before. As in Montreal the USSR win gold, silver and bronze in this event.

Teófilo Stevenson of Cuba became the first boxer to win three consecutive Olympic titles in heavyweight, the only boxer to win the same event in 3 Games. (László Papp from Hungary was the first boxer to win three titles). In boxing Cuba won 6 gold, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes, a haul only equaled once before in the entire history of the Olympics (by the USA at St. Louis in 1904 when there were hardly any other boxers from other nations present). The USSR won 1 gold medal, the same as Italy, Yugoslavia, East Germany and Bulgaria.

The 189 kilometer individual road race gold was won by Sergei Sukhoruchenkov (USSR). British team manager Peter Crinnon called it “The greatest exhibition of power riding ever”. Sukhoruchenkov is voted best racer in the world by the International Amateur Cycling Federation.

As Aleksandr Portnov waited to do a 2 and 1/2 reverse somersault in the springboard final, cheers broke out in three adjoining swimming pool during the closing stages of Salnikov’s world record breaking 1,500m swim. The diver delayed his start until the noise had subsided but, as he took his first steps along the board, even greater cheers broke out as Salnikov touched in under 15 minutes. Under the rules Portnov, having started, could not stop before take-off. He crashed badly.

On protest to the Swedish referee G.Olander he was allowed to repeat the dive and went ahead again of Mexico’s Carlos Girón. Later protests by Mexico against the re-dive and by East Germany that their Falk Hoffmann wanted to re-dive after allegedly being disturbed by photographic flashlights were both turned down by the International Amateur Swimming Federation (FINA).

FINA President Javier Ostas of Mexico stated that the decision taken by the Swedish referee was the “correct one. FINA assessed all the Olympic diving events and considers the judging to have been objective”. Portnov remained the winner with Giron taking silver and Cagnatto of Italy bronze.

In women’s gymnastics there was a judging scandal when the Romanian head judge refused to post the score of her fellow Romanian Nadia Comăneci. This score gave Comaneci a silver medal behind Yelena Davydova of the USSR, but the Romanian judge, Mili Simionescu, tried to persuade the other judges to increase Comaneci’s score so that she would win gold.

After the Olympics, Simionescu was severely criticized by the International Gymnastics Federation. Before the LA Olympics, the United States gymnastics federation proposed a change in the rules so that a head judge cannot interfere and meddle in the scoring of competitors.

Women’s field hockey was an Olympic sport for the first time. Six countries competed: Austria, India, Poland, Czechoslovakia, USSR, and Zimbabwe. The gold medal was won by the team of Zimbabwe ahead of the firm favorites of the USSR who won bronze. Zimbabwe did not learn it would get a place in the tournament until 35 days before the Games began and chose its team only the weekend before the opening ceremony. None of their players had prior playing experience on an artificial surface. They had not trained at all together before the tournament and warmed up by playing some friendly matches with different Soviet club teams.

Vladimir Salnikov (USSR) won three gold medals in swimming. He became the first man in history to break the magic 15 minute barrier in the 1500 metre freestyle, swimming’s equivalent of breaking the 4-minute mile. He missed the LA Games because of the boycott but won gold again in this event at Seoul 88

East German women dominated the swimming events, winning 9 of 11 individual titles, both the relays and setting 6 world records. They also won all 3 medals in 6 different races. In total they won 26 of the available 35 medals

A total of 81 nations were represented at the Moscow Games, but Liberia withdrew after marching in the Opening Ceremony, so a total of 80 nations actually competed.

Despite the large boycott, six nations made their first Olympic appearance in 1980: Angola, Botswana, Jordan, Laos, Mozambique, and Seychelles. Cyprus made its debut at the Summer Olympics, but had appeared earlier at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

Sri Lanka competed for the first time under its new name (previously as Ceylon), Benin had competed previously as Dahomey and Zimbabwe competed for the first time under that name (previously as Rhodesia).