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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Soviet Union and the Olympics

The Soviet Union joined the International Olympic Committee only in 1951. When they emerged the next year at the Helsinki Olympiad, they shocked the world by coming in a close second in the medal count. They then went on to dominate both the summer and winter Games in 1956. After that, Soviet sports officials dreamed of holding the Olympics in Moscow, but they got no traction with a party leadership that disdained sports. That attitude would change when Leonid Brezhnev and his colleagues ousted Nikita Khrushchev in 1964. Thanks to Brezhnev's support, Moscow would go on to host the Olympic Games in 1980. However, the realization of Brezhnev's dream was marred by a boycott lead by the United States in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

  • January 30, 1951

    Soviet Political Cartoon, 'We Are Waiting for Better Results'

    Three Soviet athletes break world records above, while below they struggle with academic lessons.

  • April, 1966

    Concerning the Instructions to the Soviet Representatives at the 64th Session of the International Olympic Committee

    Discussion of the upcoming vote for the location of the 1972 Olympic Games, including the possibility of Moscow bidding to host them.

  • April 01, 1966

    Central Council of the Union of USSR Sports Societies and Organizations Report on the 64th Session of the International Olympic Committee

    Voting instructions, and the reasoning behind them, for the locations of the 1972 summer and winter Olympic Games.

  • April 02, 1966

    Decree of the Secretariat of the CC of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Instructions to the Soviet Representatives of the 64th Session of the International Olympic Committee in April 1966

    Voting instructions for the location of the 1972 summer and winter Olympic Games.

  • April 04, 1966

    Central Council of the Union of USSR Sports Societies and Organizations Report on the 64th Session of the International Olympic Committee

    Instructions to request a delay in the vote for the 1972 Olympic Games in order to allow Moscow to submit a bid to host them.

  • 1980

    Soviet Political Cartoon, 'Passing the Baton'

    Political cartoon from the Soviet satirical magazine Krokodil. A female character labeled "Cold War" accepts a flaming relay torch with burning letters reading "Boycott Olympics" passed by a figure representing the United States. Underneath is the caption, "the boycott has one goal: to kindle the Cold War," a quote from the famous Soviet author Sergey Mikhalkov.

  • January 04, 1980

    Jimmy Carter, 'Address to the Nation on the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan'

    Jimmy Carter proposes sanctions in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

  • January 20, 1980

    Telegram from the Romanian Embassy in Pyongyang to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 12, 1980, 057016, Secret

    A description of North Korea's economic and industrial growth and its viewpoint on the assassination of South Korean President Park Chung Hee.

  • January 20, 1980

    Letter by President Jimmy Carter to the President of the United States Olympic Committee Robert Kane

    Jimmy Carter explains his call for a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics in reponse to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

  • April 12, 1980

    Address by Vice President Mondale to the United States Olympic Committee, 'US Call for an Olympic Boycott'

    Vice President Mondale addresses the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), advocating for President Carter's proposed boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later that day, the USOC voted to uphold the boycott.