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Countries that boycotted the 1984 Games are shaded blue

The boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles followed four years after the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The boycott involved 14 Eastern Bloc satellite states and allies, led by the Soviet Union, which initiated the boycott on May 8, 1984. Boycotting countries organized another major event, called the Friendship Games, in July and August 1984. Although the boycott led by the Soviet Union affected Olympic events that were normally dominated by the absent countries, 140 nations still took part in the games, which was a record at the time.[1][2]

Announcement of boycott

The USSR, led by Konstantin Chernenko as General Secretary at the time, announced its intentions to boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics on May 8, 1984,[3] claiming "security concerns and chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria being whipped up in the United States."[3] A US official said the country had ignored suggestive comments by the Soviet Union in the weeks building up to the announcement and that, in spite of all the indications, the United States was "absolutely dumbfounded" when the official announcement arrived.[4]

After the announcement, six more Soviet Eastern Bloc satellites joined the boycott, including Bulgaria, East Germany (on May 10),[5] Mongolia and Vietnam (both May 11),[6] Laos, and Czechoslovakia (both May 13). Meanwhile, China formally confirmed that it would be present at the games in Los Angeles.[7]

Later, the Soviet-dominated Afghanistan also announced its withdrawal, becoming the eighth country to join the boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics.[8] Then, Hungary (May 16) and Poland (May 17) became the ninth and tenth Communist countries to join the boycott. Hungary claimed the lives of its athletes would be put in danger if they were to spend time in Los Angeles. On the other hand, Poland said that the United States was engaging in a "campaign aimed at disturbing the Games".[9][10]

On May 23, Cuba became the eleventh country to announce its participation in the boycott,[11] making front-page news in the United States because it was a "serious blow to boxing and baseball".[12] South Yemen was the twelfth country to remove itself from the event (May 27); the Los Angeles Times stated that this was due to their "Marxist connections".[13] North Korea was the thirteenth nation to boycott the 1984 Olympics.[14] Ethiopia became the first African state to participate in the boycott, followed by Angola.[15] Under Thomas Sankara's revolutionary government, Upper Volta announced on 13 July 1984 to boycott the tournament as a response to the United States supporting South Africa, which was implementing apartheid at the time, and planning to have South Africa participate in the 1984 Summer Olympics, as well as the England rugby union team visiting South Africa for a friendly match.[16][17] Upper Volta's name would be changed to Burkina Faso during the Olympics.

Iran had earlier decided to boycott the games because of "United States interference in the Middle East, its support for the regime occupying Jerusalem, and the crimes being committed by the U.S.A. in Latin America, especially in El Salvador".[18] Iran and Albania were the only countries to not attend both the 1980 Moscow and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Libya also boycotted the Olympics after Libyan journalists were refused entry into the United States in July, after Libya announced the ban upon US exports to Libya in 1983 and a renewal of bans upon travel to Libya by holders of US passports.[19] Libya and Ethiopia were the only nations to boycott both the 1976 Montreal and 1984 Los Angeles Games.

In addition, Albania did not attend any games from 1976 to 1988, although there was no official explanation for its absence at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and 1988 Seoul Olympics. Politically, Albania allied with China after the Sino-Soviet split, remaining antagonistic towards the Soviet Union; however, it also opposed China's rapprochement with the United States in the late 1970s, resulting in the Sino-Albanian split. A similar antagonism towards both superpowers had existed in Iran since 1979. This resulted in Iran and Albania boycotting both the 1980 and 1984 Olympics independently without endorsing the boycott on the opposing side.

Revenge hypothesis

Jimmy Carter declared that the United States would boycott the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, with 65 other countries joining the boycott.[20] This was the largest Olympic Games boycott ever. In 1984, three months before the start of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the Soviet Union declared it would "not participate" in the Games. The Soviets cited a number of reasons, namely the commercialization of the games which, in their opinion, went against the principles of the Olympic movement (indeed the XXIII Olympiad ended up being the first Olympics since 1932 to make a profit by a host country) and a claimed lack of security for their athletes. The issue of commercialization did gather some criticism from foreign delegations, who were unfamiliar with this trend in the Olympic movement. However, the IOC later recognized the Games "a model for future Olympics" due to a surplus of US$223 million for the hosts, exclusively private funding (unlike Moscow Olympics that were state-funded), and relying on existing venues instead of building new ones.[21][22] The majority viewed the boycott as more of a retaliatory move by the Soviets.[23]

Most of the world's media also interpreted the Soviet boycott as retaliation for the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games,[24][25] which had been in response to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,[24] whereas the Soviet media repeated the government line that the boycott was a safety measure to protect their own athletes. Athletes from the one Eastern Bloc country that did attend the 1984 games in Los Angeles—Romania—received a standing ovation at the Opening Ceremonies upon making their Coliseum entrance. Romania ended up finishing third in overall medal count at the Games.[26]

Among those subscribing to the "revenge hypothesis" was Peter Ueberroth, the chief organizer of the 1984 L.A. Games, who expressed his views in a press conference after the boycott was announced, on the same day that the Olympic torch relay in the United States began in New York City. U.S. President Ronald Reagan later stated his belief that the Soviets feared some of their athletes might defect. As well, the Reagan Administration agreed to meet all of the demands of the Soviet Union in turn for the Soviet Bloc's attendance at the 1984 Olympics, marking an exception to Reagan's generally "hawkish" Cold War foreign policy.[27] As more countries withdrew, the IOC announced on the deadline week that it would consider extending the deadline for entry into the Olympics.[28] The three top medal winners from the 1980 Games (which was the subject of a boycott by sixty-seven nations) in Moscow were among the boycotters, and media analysis noted this would weaken the field of competitors in a number of sports.[29] However, it was later disclosed that both the Soviet Union and East Germany boosted their performances with the help of state-run steroid programs.[30][31][32]

Soviet doping plan

Documents obtained in 2016 revealed the Soviet Union's plans for a statewide doping system in track and field in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Dated prior to the country's decision to boycott the Games, the document detailed the existing steroids operations of the program, along with suggestions for further enhancements. The communication, directed to the Soviet Union's head of track and field, was prepared by Sergei Portugalov of the Institute for Physical Culture. Portugalov was also one of the main figures involved in the implementation of the Russian doping program prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics.[33] Bryan Fogel, director of the 2017 film Icarus, has said that stricter doping controls might have been the main reason for the Soviet boycott.[34]

Boycotting countries

Listed in the chronological order of their withdrawal, not by alphabetical or any geographical order.

All the Asian countries above also boycotted at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, South Korea.

Four other countries also boycotted the games, citing political reasons, but were not part of the Soviet-led boycott:

Further to this, Kampuchea was largely unrecognized, and in any case would not have been allowed to compete.

Non-boycotting socialist countries

Seventeen communist and socialist countries, ten from Africa, did not join the Soviet-led boycott and instead sent teams to the 1984 Summer Olympics.[35]

Alternative events

The Soviets organized the Friendship Games, a full-scale multi-sport event, for boycotting countries. The Games were contested in 22 Olympic disciplines (all except association football and synchronized swimming), and in non-Olympic table tennis, tennis, and sambo wrestling. The Soviet Union dominated the medal table, winning 126 gold and 282 total medals.

See also


  1. ^ "No Boycott Blues". Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  2. ^ Doder, Dusko (May 9, 1984). "Soviets Withdraw From Los Angeles Olympics". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ a b Burns, John F. (May 9, 1984). "Moscow Will Keep Its Team From Los Angeles Olympics". The New York Times. Vol. 133, no. 46039.
  4. ^ East Germany withdraws from Summer Games. The Evening Independent – May 10, 1984.
  5. ^ Markham, James M. (May 11, 1984). "East Germany Joins Soviet in Boycotting Games". The New York Times. Vol. 133, no. 46041.
  6. ^ Vietnam and Mongolia Also Withdraw From Olympics. Philadelphia Inquirer. May 12, 1984 – A07 National.
  7. ^ Reich, Kenneth (May 13, 1984). "Czechs and Laotians Join Boycott: China Confirms It Will Take Part in Summer Olympics". LA Times.
  8. ^ "Afghanistan Joins Boycott". The New York Times. Vol. 133, no. 46044. Reuters. May 14, 1984 [May 13, 1984]. p. A6. Archived from the original on December 30, 2021.
  9. ^ Hungary 9th to Join Boycott of Olympics. Los Angeles Times. May 16, 1984. A1.
  10. ^ Barnard, William R. "Poland 10th to join Olympic boycott: Romania only Soviet ally still in Games". The Deseret News.
  11. ^ "Cuba Joins Boycott of Olympics". The Washington Post. May 24, 1984. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
  12. ^ Maxwell, Evan. "Cuba Joins Olympic Boycott: Serious Blow to Boxing and Baseball" Archived November 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Los Angeles Times. May 24, 1984. 1.
  13. ^ "Marxist South Yemen Becomes 12th Country to Drop Out of L.A. Games". Los Angeles Times. May 27, 1984. A27.
  14. ^ "North Korea Joins The Olympic Boycott". The New York Times. Vol. 132, no. 45758. June 3, 1984.
  15. ^ Reich, Kenneth. "Angola Becomes 15th Nation to Join Olympic Boycott" Archived March 25, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Los Angeles Times. Jun 27, 1984. B3.
  16. ^ Genova, James (November 2022). Making New People Politics, Cinema, and Liberation in Burkina Faso, 1983–1987. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press. pp. 87, 215. ISBN 9781609177096.
  17. ^ AF Press Clips 1984. United States Department of State. Bureau of African Affairs. February 2, 1984. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  18. ^ "Iran Announces Boycott of the 1984 Olympics". The New York Times. Vol. 132, no. 45758. August 2, 1983.
  19. ^ Ronen, Yehudit (1986). "Libya (Al-Jamhāhīriyaa al-'Arabiyya al-Lībiyya ash-Sha'biyya al-Ishtirākiyya)". Middle East Contemporary Survey, 1983-1984. Vol. 8. The Moshe Dayan Center. p. 595. ISBN 978-965-224-006-4. OCLC 923179052.
  20. ^ Gwertzman, Bernard (January 22, 1980). "Carter Bids Heads of 100 Governments Back Olympic Stand". The New York Times. Vol. 129, no. 44470.
  21. ^ Lindsey, Robert (August 12, 1984). "Success of Games in Los Angeles Likely to Change Future Olympics". The New York Times. Vol. 133, no. 46134.
  22. ^ "Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics - Athletes, Medals & Results". April 24, 2018.
  23. ^ Wilson, Harold Edwin Jr. (1993). "Prelude to the 1984 Olympic Games: The Soviet Boycott and Eastern Europe". The Golden Opportunity: A Study of the Romanian Manipulation of the Olympic Movement During the Boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games (Ph.D. thesis). Columbus: Ohio State University. pp. 74–79. ProQuest 304081191.
  24. ^ a b Tyner, Howard A. U.S. Olympic boycott of 1980 led to Soviet decision of 1984 Archived March 26, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Chicago Tribune. May 9, 1984. D13.
  25. ^ "L'actualité du sport en continu". L'Équipe (in French). Archived from the original on May 11, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  26. ^ Leavy, Jane (July 23, 1984). "Romania: No Boycott, A Winning Presence". The Washington Post.
  27. ^ Congelio, Brad (2014). Before The World Was Quiet: Ronald Reagan, Cold War Foreign Policy, And The 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Summer Games (Ph.D. thesis). London, Ontario, Canada: University of Western Ontario. Document No. 3553 – via Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository.
  28. ^ Reich, Kenneth. Olympic Entry Deadline Might Be Extended Archived October 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. The LA Times. May 30, 1984. OC3.
  29. ^ ‘East Germany Joins L.A. Olympics Boycott’. Sarasota Herald-Tribune – May 11, 1984.
  30. ^ Vinokur, Boris (April 15, 1980). "How the Russians break the Olympic rules". The Christian Science Monitor.
  31. ^ Ruiz, Rebecca R. (August 13, 2016). "The Soviet Doping Plan: Document Reveals Illicit Approach to '84 Olympics". The New York Times.
  32. ^ Aleksandrov, Aleksei; Grebeniuk, Ivan; Runets, Volodymyr (July 22, 2020). "The 1980 Olympics Are the 'Cleanest' in History. Athletes Recall How Moscow Cheated the System". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
  33. ^ Ruiz, Rebecca R. (August 13, 2016). "The Soviet Doping Plan: Document Reveals Illicit Approach to '84 Olympics". The New York Times.
  34. ^ "Bryan Fogel Talks 1984 Summer Olympics Boycott". (Podcast). Archived from the original on November 22, 2017. Retrieved November 23, 2017.
  35. ^ "Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984". International Olympic Committee. Retrieved February 14, 2023.