CBC Digital Archives

1980: Canada boycotts Moscow Olympics

Every four years, the countries of the world gather to celebrate athletic achievement in an atmosphere of international cooperation. That is the goal of the Olympic Games, yet rare has been the Olympiad that is totally free of politics. Adolf Hitler used the Games as an Aryan showcase in 1936, and a string of politically motivated boycotts in the 1970s and '80s threatened to kill the Olympic movement. The Games rebounded, but in 2008 the spectre of boycott returned as protesters sought to use the Beijing Games as a political platform.

media clip
Canadian athletes are upset, but they're not surprised. Mark McGuigan, minister of external affairs, has announced that Canada will not send athletes to the upcoming Olympic games in Moscow. The boycott is Canada's way of protesting the recent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In these back-to-back CBC Television clips, athletes seem resigned as officials bemoan political intervention in sport and predict a counter-boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
• The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 1979. In January 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter issued the Soviet Union an ultimatum: pull out of Afghanistan by February 20 or the United States would refuse to participate in the Moscow games. Canada's government announced its intention to follow suit.

• A Canadian election in February 1980 brought a change in government, and the Liberals consulted with athletes before agreeing to the boycott, which affected 211 Canadian athletes.

• About 60 nations joined the boycott, including Japan, China, West Germany and Israel. Among the 80 nations that competed in the 1980 Olympic games were France, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden -- and Afghanistan.

• Approximately 10,000 athletes had been expecting to compete at the Games before the boycott began; about 6,000 attended. That year, the Soviet team collected 80 gold medals, 69 silver, and 46 bronze.

• This was not the first time an Olympics had been boycotted by some countries. In 1976, a number of African and Caribbean nations refused to participate in the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand was there. They were protesting the fact that New Zealand had played rugby in apartheid South Africa and gone unpunished. In 1956, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon pulled out of the Melbourne Olympics because of the Suez Crisis.

• Athletes from 30 countries participated in an alternate competition promoted by the United States -- a track and field event in Philadelphia called the Liberty Bell Classic by some and the Freedom Games by others.

• Whether the boycott accomplished much is dubious. The Soviets remained in Afghanistan for eight years; and as many predicted, the Eastern Bloc countries retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Many athletes lost their only chance at Olympic glory.

Also On April 22:
1964: The Liberals under Ross Thatcher win the Saskatchewan general election, ending 20 years of CCF rule.
1965: The Rolling Stones start their first tour of Canada in Montreal. They play Ottawa, Toronto and London, Ont. before heading to Albany, New York.
1998: Gwen Boniface becomes the first woman to head the Ontario Provincial Police, Canada's second-largest police force after the RCMP. She succeeds Thomas O'Grady.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 22, 1980
Guests: Charlie Francis, Cheryl Gibson, Tom Johnson, Dick Pound, Deryk Snelling, Angella Taylor, Dan Thompson
Host: Jan Tennant
Reporter: Brian McDonald, Sheldon Turcott
Duration: 5:30

Last updated: November 3, 2014

Page consulted on November 3, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Running Off Track: The Ben Johnson Story

In 1976, Benjamin Sinclair Johnson was just a skinny immigrant kid struggling to make his high...

Going for Dope: Canada and Drugs in Sport

From stimulants to steroids, growth hormones and even gene therapy, high-performance athletes ...

Getting the Games: Canada's Olympic Bids, ext...

It might be the most ruthless of all Olympic competitions: the race for the right to host the ...

Politics and the Olympics

Every four years, the countries of the world gather to celebrate athletic achievement in an at...

1979: Soviets invade Afghanistan

Thousands of Soviet troops sweep into Kabul in December 1979, as one pro-Moscow government rep...

1996: Donovan Bailey wins gold at Atlanta Oly...

Not silver, not bronze - only gold will suffice for sprinter Donovan Bailey.