Declassified Documents Shed Light on 1980 Moscow Olympics Boycott


Picture of the opening ceremony in Moscow. Picture of the opening ceremony in Moscow.

On January 20, 1980, President Carter announced that “[u]nless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan,” that the US would boycott the Olympic games that year in Moscow. The media, including the Washington Post’s Robert G. Kaiser, supported the boycott, arguing, “the collapse of this Olympiad would send a genuine shock through Soviet society,” though CIA Director Adm. Stansfield Turner warned that such a stunt would backfire. Declassified documents, including the confidential memo featured in today’s posting, help contextualize the Carter administration’s final decision to boycott the games in the hopes of preventing Soviet expansion into Afghanistan.

The confidential January 30, 1980, memorandum from William E. Simon, Treasurer of the US Olympic Committee (USOC), to Marshall Brement, Honorary President of the USOC, encapsulated the Carter position on boycotting the games. In the memo, which is part of the Digital…

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