The boycott of the Olympic Games by Canada is certainly not a first. Also, in 1980 and 1984, several countries sent their cats to the Games – although the nature of the situation is somewhat different now. Thirty years ago, the political power struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was particularly prominent.
To fall straight to the door: the boycotts cannot be compared. Canada will not participate in the Games this summer, if at all, due to health concerns. In the full corona crisis, no one will blame them. They may not be the last country, either. The call for postponement of the Games is getting louder.
In 1980 the cards were different. The U.S. and Soviet Union were involved in a power struggle that was viewed with sorrow by the entire world. From 1961 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the two world powers were the protagonists of the Cold War. Still, the Summer Olympics took place in Moscow in the summer of 1980 – for the first time, the Games were held in a communist country.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979, U.S. President Carter imposed a condition: the Soviets withdrew, or the Americans would boycott the Games in Moscow. The fact that politics and sport are getting into each other’s waters is at odds with the Olympic way of thinking. The boycott came: the U.S. and 40 other countries – including the Federal Republic of Germany and Canada – sent their cats to Moscow.
The fact that so many countries followed the U.S. in their boycott was mainly due to the pressure Carter tried to exert. Some countries supported the boycott but left their athletes free to choose whether or not to travel to Moscow. The American athletes did not get that much freedom. Carter threatened to take their passports if they went to the Games anyway.
Four years later, the United States itself was the host country. For the second time in the history of the Games, the global sports company moved to Los Angeles. And you guessed it: the Soviet Union was not among them. In response to the American boycott in Moscow, the Soviet Union and some Eastern Bloc countries refused to participate in the Los Angeles Olympics. As an official reason, the absentee mentioned air pollution, among other things.