Olympic Fanfare and Drama

***Please open this while reading: The World’s Favorite Song.

Stagflation no more?…Much to the West’s discontent, the 1980 Summer Olympics was selected for Moscow, in 1974; in the middle of the strategic parity with the US. Russia, emerging as a superpower getting global attention, infringing on US supremacy in news, image, and knowledge. And now, America has to counter free publicity and advertisement of the evil communist foe.Now, there could be a chance of the Soviet rise OVER the US, something unimaginable to our egos and power positioning.

This announcement also bolstered the Soviet communist state, for both internal modernization, improvement of infrastructure, and overall a moral boost to the country which was unknowingly slowly crumbling. It was cited in a poll that “92% of the respondents offered the opinion that the 1980 Olympics will to one extent or another help turn Moscow into a model communist city.” This news was disgruntling for the US.

“A frenzy of construction, typical of host cities, resulted in not only new stadiums, training facilities, and hotels, but a new airport at Sheremet’evo. The city itself was spruced up. Roads were newly paved, trees were planted, debris was cleared, and wall murals and flags, many displaying “Misha,” the cuddly bear who was the mascot of these Olympics, festooned the boulevards. Jobs for translators, guides, and guards were highly sought after, and already in October 1978, the Soviet media was authorized to crank out publicity about the games to counteract negative propaganda from the West.”

So how did the US respond to all of the wonderful progress in the USSR? They clapped back with a boycott. Here is an excerpt from the January 20, 1980 letter by President Jimmy Carter to the president of the United States Olympic committee Robert Kane:

“I regard the Soviet invasion and the attempted suppression of Afghanistan as a serious violation of international law and an extremely serious threat to world peace. This invasion also endangers neighboring independent countries and access to a major part of the world’s oil supplies. It therefore threatens our own national security, as well as the security of the region and the entire world.

We must make clear to the Soviet Union that it cannot trample upon an independent nation and at the same time do business as usual with the rest of the world. We must make clear that they will pay a heavy economic and political cost for such aggressions. That is why I have taken the severe economic measures announced on January 4,2 and why other free nations are supporting these measures. That is why the United Nations General Assembly,3 by an overwhelming vote of 103 to 18, condemned the invasion and urged the prompt withdrawal of Soviet troops.”

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This image shows: “A female character labeled “Cold War” accepts a flaming relay torch with burning letters reading “Boycott Olympics” passed by a figure representing the United States. Underneath is the caption, ‘the boycott has one goal: to kindle the Cold War,’ a quote from the famous Soviet author Sergey Mikhalkov.”

All of this literature points to two central themes: distrust and increasing animosity, that further pushed tensions to a breaking point between the US and USSR. They can be seen as two countries, both with power, and technological advances playing ring around the rosy. After events such as the Bay of Pigs, nuclear détente was used, however, how long could two “world leaders” continue to spat at each other until the tension is too much. This is not a unique theme, is can be seen today with our increasing tensions (for all the wrong reasons) with North Korea. History and politics have a funny way of repeating themselves, and we do a wonderful job to never fully learn our lessons. Hey, but it helps to be the huge winner, right?

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This post was selected for “Comrades Corner” by  the Editorial Team!

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7 thoughts on “Olympic Fanfare and Drama

  1. It is so interesting how the Olympic games are always surrounded by political tensions, and that the majority of Soviet people believed the event would popularize communism. I really liked the two block quotes you used, especially the letter from President Carter. With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the forefront of the decision to boycott, I wonder how American strategy would have changed if the invasion never occurred. Nice work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like how you addressed the tensions building in both the U.S. and Russia surrounding the Olympics. It is really interesting how symbolic a country’s actions surrounding the Olympics can be. I also really liked your usage of the song and the primary sources. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the opening of this — and the John Williams fanfare is a nice touch. You highlight an interesting tension in the ways that the US explained the the decision to boycott vs. the Soviets’ perspective. Check back on the Current Digest article — if you use the “stable URL” we can get to the piece about cleaning up Moscow. Also, as someone who has travelled through Sheremetevo many times, I can confirm that the new airport did not live up to expectations!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed reading this post, especially your perspective on the political tensions and how the US viewed the Moscow Olympics as a threat to their power. I would offer that the Soviet Union was well aware of the tensions this would cause though. They didn’t accept the nomination purely for the joy of fraternal international athletic competition, they knew it was a chance to show the world the Communist system in a positive light and hoped it would influence others. Naturally all countries take the Olympic games as an opportunity to show themselves to the world in their best light, the USSR was no different. This post really made me think though, great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You do a great job of showing the power politics that are constantly taking part between Russia and the US. From atomic bombs, to the olympics, to events unfolding today, history shows that the US has always been on the defensive against Russia as a superpower. Although I do find it amusing to contrast the lengths we’ve gone to in order to ensure that we’re “above” Russia. For example, with some people viewing our use of the atomic bomb as a way to “one up Russia” in the nuclear weapons department, it goes from the extreme of using an atomic bomb on another country, to simply boycotting the olympics!

    Liked by 1 person

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