Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), has tweeted a letter to the athletes affected by the 1980 Olympic boycott. The message came on the 40th anniversary of the 1980 opening ceremonies, where Americans and many other nations did not participate.
Prior to the 1980 Olympics, there had been talk of boycotting the Games in order to protest Soviet human rights violations, but no actions were taken until January 14, 1980 when the Carter administration called on the Soviet Union to pull out of Afganistán. With this threat, the US convinced its allies to join the boycott, resulting in 66 countries pulling out of the games, including Canada, West Germany, and Japan.
As a result of the boycott, athletes across the world lost the chance to compete at the Olympic Games. In the US alone, over 450 athletes had already qualified to compete at the Games. For swimmers, it was seen as a missed opportunity for redemption following the infamous East German doping scandal that plagued the 1976 Games that held the American women to a single gold medal in the 400 freestyle relay.
Beginning her letter, Hirshland addresses the 1980 Team and cites the upcoming 40th anniversary of the 1980 Games, calling it “a moment to honor, update, and connect with you.”
She then goes on to apologize on behalf of the USOPC for not sending a team to the Games, saying that it, “had no impact on the global politics of the era and instead only harmed you- American athletes who had dedicated themselves to excellence and the change to represent the United States.”
Hirshland then proceeds to make an announcement about how the USOPC intends to commemorate the team, stating, “This weekend we will be honoring the 1980 Team on our social media platforms…and a permanent tribute as part of the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum.”
No athlete should ever have to miss out on the Olympics or Paralympics for political reasons. My letter to the 1980 Olympians: pic.twitter.com/rTd6rbr7Jv
— Sarah Hirshland (@USOPC_CEO) July 19, 2020
The USOPC just announced the opening of the Olympic and Paralympic Museum, which will open its doors to the public on July 30.