Dates: July 19- August 13 1980
Total Athletes: 5,512
The Soviet Union outbid Los Angeles to host the 1980 Games and the XXII of
modern times. It was an unusual decision as it was the height of the cold war
between the two super powers. The IOC rewarded the Soviet Union for its
commitment and its status in sports dominance.
However, the IOC could not predict what was to occur on December 27, 1979 when
the Russians sent a massive military force into Afghanistan in support of the
Karmal coup d'etat. While various nations denounced the action, there was no
outward reaction by the Western powers.
However, on January 20, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced if the Russians
were not out of Afghanistan in one month, he would not send a U.S. delegation
to Moscow for the Summer Games. He urged other free nations to do likewise.
Sixty one did just that, while others allowed their athletes to make up their
own minds. From here on, the Games would take a highly political tone rather
than a celebration of sport.
As a result, it was the lowest amount of participating nations since the
Helsinki Games of 1952.
Americans were severely critical of the president, thinking they were being
used as pawns in a political game between the U.S. and Russia.
With some of the largest countries withdrawing and others sending partial
delegations, the Russians flexed their muscle and dominated the medal count.
Word got out that the competition was being tilted heavily in favor of Russian
One of the greatest examples of this was in the men's triple jump. Heading into
the final round of competition, four athletes were beginning to rise to the top
of the field, two Soviets Jaak Uudmae and Viktor Saneyev, winner of the last
three Olympic triple jump gold medals, and a pair of Westerners, Joao Carlos de
Oliveira of Brazil and Ian Campbell of Australia.
Oliveira and Campbell were frustrated as jump after jump, Russian officials
would red flag them, indicating a foul. As the men began to argue, the
officials would already begin raking away the mark, making any argument of the
foul moot. On Oliveira's fourth jump, it looked as though he had surpassed
Saneyev's 12-year-old-world record of 17.39 meters, only to be flagged once
All in all, the westerners were flagged in nine of their 12 jumps. As a
result, Uudmae captured the gold, Sanevey the silver and Oliveira the bronze.
Campbell finished fifth.
The highlight of the Olympics was in the 800 and 1,500 meter races featuring
Great Britain's two finest runners, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett. The two had
been rivals for years, breaking each others records but not against each other.
The two severely disliked one another.
In the much anticipated 800 meter race, Ovett made his move and took the lead
in the final turn of the race. Meanwhile, Coe, who was hovering in the fourth
position, was doing all he could to move ahead. He finally passed Brazil's
Agberto Guimaraes and finally Russia's Nikolai Kirov, but because he made his
move so late, could not catch Ovett, who won with a time of 1:45.4, a half
second ahead of Coe.
This set the stage for an even more intriguing battle between the two in the
1,500 meter race. The trio of Ovett, Coe and East Germany's Jurgen Straub made
it a three-man battle. In the final lap of the race, Coe made his move on the
East German and took the lead. Ovett, who had been running right on Coe's
shoulder, kept pace, until Coe used a final push to win the race in 1:48.5, .4
ahead of Straub and .6 ahead of Ovett. Coe had managed to cover the final 800
meters in 1:48.5 and the final 400 meters in 52.1.
The Soviets won 195 of the 630 total medals, and 80 of the 127 golds. East
Germany would finish second, winning 126 total medals and 47 gold. The
remaining seven Soviet bloc nations totaled 321 medals and 161 gold medals. The
remaining participating nations were able to win only 136 total medals and 49