Why did the US Boycott the 1980 Olympics?

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Left: US President Jimmy Carter discusses the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, suggesting a US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Right: a scene from the closing ceremony in Moscow. Sources: Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images; Wikimedia Commons.

The United States' boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, decreed by President Jimmy Carter, left a hole in the history of sports -- but why? Elite American athletes didn't get to compete with the best from the rest of the world, many of wore the colors of the Soviet Union and the initialism CCCP. Carter, a touchy-feely president by any standard, made a hard decision based on Cold War politics, and it left the American sports community, and regular sports-loving Americans, devastated.

Because the Olympic games function like music or puppies: something we can all band together and love, regardless of politics or where we call home. Unless, of course, you are talking about the 1980 Olympics. Jimmy Carter’s decision came on the heels of Soviet incursion into Afghanistan and the attempted coup to establish Babrak Karmal as president.

His polarizing decision to boycott the Olympics threatened to reignite the Cold War that had begun to thaw in the late ‘70s. Obviously, American athletes who trained like fervent monks to prepare for the games were crestfallen over his declaration. Here’s the history of that momentous adjudication.