Moscow 1980

40 years ago today: Jimmy Carter lays plan for Olympic boycott

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On Jan. 20, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would not support sending a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics later that summer if the Soviet Union did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Carter detailed his stance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” airing that Sunday. A transcript:

Bill Monroe: Assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?

Carter: No. Neither I nor the American people would support the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or canceled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops immediately from Afghanistan — within a month — I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics. It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan is. I do not want to inject politics into the Olympics, and I would personally favor the establishment of a permanent Olympic site for both the Summer and the Winter Games. In my opinion, the most appropriate permanent site for the Summer Games would be Greece. This will be my own position, and I have asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to take this position to the International Olympic Committee, and I would hope that as many nations as possible would support this basic position. One hundred and four nations voted against the Soviet invasion and called for their immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in the United Nations, and I would hope as many of those as possible would support the position I’ve just outlined to you.

Monroe: Mr. President, if a substantial number of nations does not support the U.S. position, would not that just put the U.S. in an isolated position without doing much damage to the Soviet Union?

Carter: Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.

Three days later, Carter said in his State of the Union address, “I have notified the Olympic Committee that with Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

The Soviets did not withdraw troops.

Though Carter did not have the authority to order a boycott, the U.S. Olympic Committee did decide on April 12 not to send a team.

The U.S. was among more than 60 nations that were invited to the Moscow Games and did not participate (for various reasons). Other notable absences included Canada, West Germany, Japan and China.

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Daniel Radcliffe to play Seb Coe in movie

Daniel Radcliffe
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British actor Daniel Radcliffe, best known for playing Harry Potter, will be cast as two-time Olympic champion runner Seb Coe in an upcoming film, according to reports.

“Gold” will tell the story of Coe’s middle-distance rivalry with fellow Brit Steve Ovett leading up to the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Coe won gold in the 1500m at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and silver in the 800m at both Games. Ovett won gold in the 800m and bronze in the 1500m in Moscow.

It’s not yet known who will play Ovett, according to the BBC.

“I hadn’t realized how good it was until you dig into their past,” Oscar-winning screen writer Simon Beaufoy told the BBC. “They were fantastically different athletes and different people. And they rarely met … apart from on the track — but not very often, even on the track.”

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Beaufoy said they raced against each other twice before Moscow, one of them being a school cross-country meet.

Filming will reportedly begin in the United Kingdom and Russia in April.

Does Radcliffe resemble Coe? You be the judge.

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It’s not the first time Radcliffe’s been compared to an Olympian.

Many thought of Radcliffe’s Potter when Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann won double gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Simon Ammann
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