It has oft been said that sports offers the thrill of victory and the agony of
defeat. In 1980, the Olympic Games, Winter and Summer, provided both
and were bittersweet for me and many of my fellow Americans.
In February, I was thrilled to be in Lake Placid to open the Winter Games
and be in the stands when the United States hockey team, which featured
many players and the coach from my home state of Minnesota, won the gold
medal. Two months later in April, I agonized over addressing the delegates of
the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs about the decision
to boycott the Summer Games.
I have always been a sports fan, in general, and a fan of the Olympics,
in particular. Though I was never quite a good enough athlete to make an
Olympic team while growing up in southern Minnesota, I have always marveled
at those who were able to accomplish that goal. I have a great sense of
loyalty and empathy to the kids who didn't get the chance to live their dream
of competing in the 1980 Olympic Summer Games in Moscow. For many,
they only had a couple of years in their prime and would never get another
chance like that again. They lost a big point in their lives that they
to be able to reclaim. I know this is still a very raw moment in American
history, and for that I am sorry.
I will always remember meeting with those athletes in the White House.
Like they had been when the announcement was made to boycott the Games
in Colorado Springs, they were very respectful and dignified despite the fact
that in their hearts I'm sure most disagreed with the decision and just wanted
to compete. I also can understand why some of the athletes may have felt as if
they were used as political pawns because of what was at stake for them.
Certainly sending a team and going ahead with the Olympics, politically,
would've been an easy thing to do. But, I can say unequivocally, boycotting
the 1980 Olympic Summer Games was a very painful decision for all involved
in making it, but one that we felt was the right thing to do.
The Soviet Union would've loved it if American athletes had made a big
issue against our policy. They would've grabbed on to that and said, 'See,
America is putting its own athletes down and the athletes are mad about it
and want to come to Moscow.'
For the athletes of the 1980 United States Summer Olympic team during
this era of American history and the Cold War, it was these men and women
who unfortunately, and unwillingly, became the warriors in our country's
defense of freedom. These men and women were the ones who were affected
We must remember that America and the world confronted an enormously
dangerous new action by the Soviet Union: it had invaded its neighbor
Afghanistan without a shred of moral or legal legitimacy, seeking, by
brute force, to suppress Afghan independence. Like Nazi Germany, at the
infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics, where Hitler tried to use the Olympics to
legitimize his hideous government, so, too, Soviet dictators had begun to
argue that the world's willingness to hold their Olympics in Moscow demonstrated
that world opinion backed the Soviet Union despite widespread
international resentment toward their government and its appalling abuse
of its neighbor.
Of course, the Soviet Union system later spectacularly collapsed, disappearing
forever from the world scene. I believe that our young athletes, who
sacrificed so much, deserve great credit for their part in denying
to such an odious regime.
this very tragic moment of American and Olympic history and tells the story
within its pages about the men and women who were called upon to make
an extreme sacrifice because of an international conflict in which they had
This is Vice President Walter F. Mondale's Foreword to the new book Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom and Jerry Caraccioli where Mondale outlines the reasons for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
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