January 26

This Day in History

Cold War

Jan 26, 1980:

U.S. Olympic Committee votes against Moscow games

At the request of President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Olympic Committee votes to ask the International Olympic Committee to cancel or move the upcoming Moscow Olympics. The action was in response to the Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan the previous month.

Demonstrating once again that the Cold War infiltrated every facet of world life, the action indicated that even the Olympic games, an arena for sportsmanship and friendly international competition, could be a highly politicized event. Although the Committee stopped short of announcing a U.S. boycott of the Olympics in Moscow, the U.S. stance left little room for optimism on that count.

President Carter made it clear that if the Soviets did not disengage from Afghanistan by February 20, a cancellation of U.S. participation in the Olympics was all but certain. As one member of the committee stated, the vote reflected "what the president requested the committee to do." He indicated that the vote was a message to the Soviets that "their aggression in Afghanistan will not go unanswered." On the other side of the argument, a number of U.S. Olympic athletes were highly critical of both the vote and President Carter's ultimatum, feeling that an international sports competition should not be a tool for political statements.

The Soviets ignored the vote and the ultimatum, and the U.S. Olympic Committee decided to boycott the games. It was the first time in the modern history of the Olympics that the United States refused to participate. Almost a decade passed before the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan.

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