Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 19, 1980

Welcome to another edition of the Tuesday Timeline.  And I will readily admit that I had a hard time picking a topic for today.  July 19 was a relatively tame day from an historical perspective, so I really had to look outside the box in order to come up with a subject.

It took me some time, but I found something to discuss.  Interestingly enough, the subject is sports related - a subject I know little to nothing about.  So, I really had to do my research with this one. 

By the way, here's what else happened on this date in history.

1544 - The First Siege of Boulogne begins

1545 - Tudor warship Mary Rose sinks off Portsmouth

1553 - After just serving nine days on the throne, Lady Jane Grey is replaced by Mary I of England as Queen of England

1845 - 345 buildings are destroyed during the Great Fire of New York City

1848 - Seneca Falls, New York becomes home of the first Women's Rights Convention

1900 - The first line of the Paris Metro opens for operation

1903 - The first Tour de France is concluded; Maurice Garin is declared the winner

1923 - Sports broadcaster Lon Simmons (d. 2015) is born in Vancouver, Washington

1924 - Animation director Arthur Rankin Jr. (d. 2014) is born in New York City

1943 - Rome, Italy is heavily bombed by over 500 Allied aircraft during World War II

1947 - Lyuh Woon-hyung, a Korean politician, is assassinated

1981 - Francois Mitterand, the Prime Minister of France, confirms the existence of the Farewell Dossier to President Ronald Reagan - confirming that the Soviet Union had stolen American technological research

1985 - 268 people lose their lives following the collapse of the Val di Stava Dam

1986 - "Invisible Touch" by Genesis reaches the top of the Billboard charts

1989 - United Airlines Flight 232 crashes in Sioux City, Iowa, killing 111 on board

1997 - The Provisional Irish Republican Army resumes a ceasefire to end a 25-year long campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland

2009 - "Angela's Ashes" author Frank McCourt dies at the age of 78

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following famous faces turning one year older; Elizabeth Spencer, Sue Thompson, Helen Gallagher, Vikki Carr, George Dzundza, Bernie Leadon, Brian May, Beverly Archer, Ivar Kantz, Freddy Moore, Atom Egoyan, Lisa Lampanelli, Campbell Scott, Anthony Edwards, Garth Nix, Nancy Carell, Catriona Rowntree, Benedict Cumberbatch, Angela Griffin, Vinessa Shaw, Michelle Heaton, Nikki Osborne, Jared Padalecki, Helen Skelton, Kaitlin Doubleday, and Shane Dawson.

Yeah, as I said before, July 19 was kind of a hard date to choose a topic for.

But I settled on picking July 19, 1980 as today's Tuesday Timeline date.  I don't remember this date.  Truth be told, I was probably more than likely conceived right around this date.  But there is a story that needs to be told about this date...and while it might seem a little insignificant at the beginning, the whole event had some major repercussions that directly affected the following event.

One of the largest sporting events that is held globally is the Olympic Games.  And beginning August 5, 2016, thousands of athletes will be congregating in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for their own chance at winning a gold medal in a series of events.  And while the threat of the Zika Virus still remains a danger in Brazil, for most of the athletes going, I am sure that they have taken the necessary precautions before competing.

The year 1980 was also an Olympic year - twofold.  Prior to 1994, the Winter and Summer Olympics were held the same year.  The Winter Olympics were held not far from my hometown in Lake Placid, New York, and those games came and went without much controversy.

It was the Summer Games that caused a kerfuffle.

The 1980 Summer Olympics held its opening ceremonies on July 19, 1980.  And this time around, the Summer Olympics of 1980 were associated with a lot of firsts.

It was the first - and so far ONLY Summer Games to be held in Eastern Europe.  They were also the first Summer Olympic Games to be held in a communist country, as the host city of Moscow was then a part of the Soviet Union.  It was the first Olympic games for six nations; Angola, Botswana, Jordan, Laos, Mozambique, and the Seychelles.

And it was the first time that the United States boycotted the Olympic games.

Although, it wasn't just the United States that declined to participate in the games.  Although the exact number wasn't known, it is estimated that a grand total of sixty-five nations sat out during the 1980 Summer Olympics.  Some of these nations included Canada, China, Argentina, Israel, Japan, Thailand, and West Germany.  Other nations, such as Great Britain, Australia, and France decided to participate, but sent over a much smaller group of athletes to represent them in comparison to other years.

But why did so many nations decide not to take part in the games?  Well, in the case of some of the nations, they simply didn't have the money to send an entire team of Olympians to compete.

But some countries boycotted the Summer Olympics of 1980 to make a statement.  And it was the United States that started the whole thing off.

To understand the motivation behind the boycott, we have to take our Tuesday Timeline back a little bit to 1979 - which was a very tumultuous time in history.  That was when the Soviet Union sent in an army to invade Afghanistan which kicked off the Soviet-Afghan War - a conflict that lasted almost an entire decade.  It was no secret that during that time, the United States and the Soviet Union had a rather tense relationship.  Many people worried that with both countries working on nuclear weapons that it would lead to an all out Cold War.   Add the fact that before the invasion of Afghanistan first commenced that American Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph "Spike" Dubs was killed in a rescue attempt after being kidnapped, and well, you had a powder keg waiting to go off.  

The tension that was happening at that time was being watched closely by then President of the United States Jimmy Carter, and in January 1980 - six months before the start of the Summer Olympics in Moscow - he issued an ultimatum.  If the Soviet Union did not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, then he would have no choice but to have the American Olympic Team boycott the Summer Games.  Carter gave the USSR one month to withdraw troops, but by the time the deadline arrived, Soviet troops were still stationed within the Afghan borders, so Carter pulled the team.

As did 64 other nations.  By the time the opening ceremonies had begun, only eighty countries were represented at the Olympic games - one of the lowest turnouts ever recorded.  And while boycotts were nothing new to the Olympics - there was also one for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, Canada - this boycott completely changed the way the Olympic Opening Ceremonies were broadcast.

Normally how it works is that you have every team being introduced, and all the athletes representing that country come out waving the flags of their respective nations, having a grand old time.  This time around, many nations - fifteen to be exact - marched with the Olympic flag instead of their country flags.  Because while the teams who did go to the Olympic games wanted to participate, they still held onto the belief that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was wrong.  A few nations refused to take part in the opening ceremonies at all.  It certainly was one of the strangest ceremonies to be held.

And the impact that the boycott had on the actual Olympic Games themselves varied depending on what events athletes competed in.  Some events, such as swimming and weightlifting saw an increase in participants since the 1976 Olympics, while other events such as field hockey and horse jumping had so few contestants that it was a real possibility that the events would be cancelled. 

However, there were some bright spots to note when it came down to the 1980 Summer Olympics.  For one, the Olympics saw the highest number of female athletes competing for Olympic gold - 21% of all athletes in the 1980 Summer Games were women.  It was also the Olympics in which more representatives from "Third World Nations" took home Olympic gold, which essentially proved that anybody could become an Olympic hero no matter what country you were representing.  

Still, it was one of the boldest statements that was made by an entire group of nations in protest of the host country's invasion of Afghanistan.  And it was a statement that continued well into the following Olympic ceremonies.  

You see, the host of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games was Los Angeles, California (the city had competed against Moscow for the 1980 Games), and at the 1980 Summer Olympic Closing Ceremonies, instead of an American flag being raised, a flag representing Los Angeles was used - the first time that the nation of a host city had refused to let their flag fly.  And in response to Los Angeles being the home of the 1984 Summer Olympics, The Soviet Union decided to boycott the games themselves, leading to thirteen other countries following suit. 

The question is...was the right decision made to boycott the Olympic Games?  I honestly can't make that call, as I was not around during that time.  I barely remember the 1984 Olympics, to be completely honest.  But to me, the Olympics represent what is so great about the world.  Nations coming together and setting aside their differences for just a few days to play some sports.  The competition was friendly, but fierce.  The joy the athletes felt when they took home a medal was inspiring.  And yet, the boycott of the 1980 Olympics - which lead to the boycott of the 1984 Olympics - sort of left a sour taste in people's mouths.  It was the Olympics went on, but without the heart, the passion, and the joy.  

Here's hoping that the 2016 Summer Olympics can bring back some of that global love...believe me, with the way the world is now, we need all the love we can spare.

No comments:

Post a Comment