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Boycott fails to dampen spirits

19 Jul 1980
Moscow 1980

The Opening Ceremony in Moscow was always going to be the most graphically affected part of the 1980 Olympic Games once 64 countries had decided to commit to a boycott.


Led by the United States, a great swathe of nations opted not to compete at the Games in protest at the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the previous year.

Despite much 11th-hour diplomatic manoeuvring, the boycott went ahead and as a result the number of athletes attending the traditional curtain-raiser was hit hard.

Along with United States, countries such as Japan, West Germany, Switzerland and Pakistan joined in with the boycott, while many others left it to their individual National Olympic Committees as to whether they should send representatives.

Many nations, including Great Britain, France and Australia, opted to enter the Central Lenin Stadium for the Opening Ceremony bearing the Olympic flag rather than their own.

The Ceremony itself was a superbly co-ordinated affair with the star of the show proving to be the massive image of Games mascot Misha from cards held aloft by thousands of the watching crowd.

Lord Killanin, then President of the International Olympic Committee, addressed the crowd before Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev officially opened the Games.

The Olympic oath was delivered by Nikolai Andrianov, who added two more gold medals in Moscow to his existing haul of five golds from Munich and Montreal.

Traditional dancing dominated the programme but one unique element came from space as a message from cosmonauts Leonid Popov and Valery Ryumin during their marathon stint in a Soviet space station was beamed to the awestruck crowd.

Three-time Olympic triple jump champion Viktor Saneyev carried the Olympic flame into the stadium while the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron fell to Russian basketballer Sergei Belov.

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