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The 1980 Summer Olympics boycott of the Moscow Olympics was a part of a package of actions initiated by the United States to protest the Soviet war in Afghanistan. It preceded the 1984 Summer Olympics boycott carried out by the Soviet Union and other Communist-friendly countries.
The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan spurred Jimmy Carter to issue an ultimatum on January 20, 1980 that the United States would boycott the Moscow Olympics if Soviet troops did not withdraw from Afghanistan within one month.
The pros and cons of the boycott were further discussed in several interventions at the 1980 Bilderberg meeting held towards the end of April in Aachen. The debate partly surrounded the perception that the action could be perceived on the worldwide stage as a sentimental rather than a strategic act. An African representative at the event stated that a boycott would be an effective symbolic protest because of its dramatic visibility to the citizens of the Soviet Union, regardless of whether or not the action provoked a response. Immense pressure was brought to bear by the Carter administration against the NATO countries, not all of which complied with the calls for a boycott. German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt complained of the United States' attitude that the allies "should simply do as they are told." Boxer Muhammad Ali was dispatched by the administration to Tanzania, Nigeria, and Senegal to convince its leaders to join the boycott, although his public comments in Tanzania were panned in the American press and the diplomatic mission itself was seen as a failure.
The United States was ultimately joined in the boycott by some other countries – including Japan, West Germany (Schmidt was able to convince the national Olympic committee not to send a team by a narrow margin), China, the Philippines, Argentina and Canada. Some of these countries competed at the Olympic Boycott Games in Philadelphia. Notably, United Kingdom, France and Australia supported the boycott but allowed their athletes to participate if they wished and left the final decisions to participate in the Games to their respective National Olympic Committees and the individual athletes of the countries concerned. The United Kingdom and France sent a much smaller delegation of athletes than usual. The British equestrian, hockey, and yachting associations boycotted completely. Nevertheless, the delegation of the United Kingdom was the largest among Western Europe, with 170 athletes applying to compete.
Spain, Italy, Sweden, Iceland and Finland were other principal nations representing western Europe, though Italian athletes belonging to military corps did not attend the Games, due to the government's support of the boycott, which severely affected many events. Some American-born athletes who were citizens of other countries, such as Italy and Australia, did compete in Moscow.
At the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, athletes from a number of countries, including Australia, Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Spain, and Switzerland, marched under the Olympic Flag, instead of their national flags, a fact that the Soviet TV coverage alternately ignored. Moreover, although the government of New Zealand officially supported the boycott, four athletes from that country competed independently and marched under their NOC's flag. Altogether, the athletes of 16 countries were not represented by their national flags, and the Olympic Anthem replaced their national anthems at medal ceremonies. As a result, there were a few ceremonies where three Olympic Flags were raised.
Because Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau was unable to travel to Moscow due to the boycott, Sandra Henderson and Stéphane Préfontaine, the final torchbearers at the previous games, were sent in his stead to participate in the Antwerp Ceremony at the opening ceremony, and at the closing ceremony, the Los Angeles city flag – rather than the United States flag – was raised to symbolize the next host of the Olympic Games. An IOC member from the USA was used to receive the Antwerp flag instead of the Los Angeles mayor (who at the time was Tom Bradley), and there was no Los Angeles handover ceremony at the closing.
Even though only 80 nations participated, more world records were set in Moscow than in 1976 in Montreal.
On May 24, 1980 in Buffalo, New York at the United States Olympic Trials for the marathon, Gary Fanelli led the pack for 15 miles (24 km) while protesting the boycott with a shirt that read "The Road to Moscow Ends Here".
Sixty-five countries did not participate in the Olympics despite being invited. While some of these may not have participated because of the boycott, some did not participate for economic reasons. Qatar was not invited to take part.
*Qatar did not attend the Games because they were not invited by the International Olympic Committee.
**Chinese Taipei / Taiwan did not attend because of the 1979 Nagoya Resolution, in which the People's Republic of China agreed to participate in the IOC if the Republic of China/Taiwan were referred to as "Chinese Taipei".
Sixteen nations participated in the Games, but paraded into the Olympic stadium without their national flags.
Seven countries attending the Games did not participate in the Opening parade:
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The succeeding 1984 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, United States saw another boycott, this time led by the Soviet Union. On May 8, 1984, the Soviet Union issued a statement that the country would boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles due to "chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria being whipped up in the United States." Thirteen Soviet allies joined the boycott, giving a total of fourteen nations that boycotted the Olympics. Iran and Albania were the only countries that boycotted both Moscow and Los Angeles.