May 8

This Day in History

Cold War

May 8, 1984:

Soviets announce boycott of 1984 Olympics

Claiming that its athletes will not be safe from protests and possible physical attacks, the Soviet Union announces that it will not compete in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Despite the Soviet statement, it was obvious that the boycott was a response to the decision of the United States to boycott the 1980 games that were held in Moscow.

Just months before the 1984 Olympic games were to begin in Los Angeles, the Soviet government issued a statement claiming, "It is known from the very first days of preparations for the present Olympics the American administration has sought to set course at using the Games for its political aims. Chauvinistic sentiments and anti-Soviet hysteria are being whipped up in this country." Russian officials went on to claim that protests against the Soviet athletes were likely to break out in Los Angeles and that they doubted whether American officials would try to contain such outbursts. The administration of President Ronald Reagan responded to these charges by declaring that the Soviet boycott was "a blatant political decision for which there was no real justification."

In the days following the Soviet announcement, 13 other communist nations issued similar statements and refused to attend the games. The Soviets, who had been stung by the U.S. refusal to attend the 1980 games in Moscow because of the Russian intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, were turning the tables by boycotting the 1984 games in America. The diplomatic impact of the action was quite small. The impact on the games themselves, however, was immense. Without competition from the Soviet Union, East Germany, and other communist nations, the United States swept to an Olympic record of 83 gold medals.

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