"Maybe we should give up?" Why the Olympics-80 was in jeopardy

Forty years ago the Soviet Union for the first time in the history of the Olympics. On the organization of the competition has thrown all forces and means. Never before in Eastern Europe do not hold competitions of such scale. But politics intervened. The US and Europe announced a boycott, and many of the Western teams came to Moscow. Like preparing for the Olympics-80 and than she remembered the world — in the material RIA Novosti.

The opening ceremony was supposed to start at 16:00. But by noon, Luzhniki was filled to capacity — the audience had already taken their seats on the bleachers. Was Waiting For Leonid Brezhnev. The Secretary General was late, the organizers were nervous. Finally from the speakers was heard the festive Overture of Dmitri Shostakovich.

In the arena seemed to young men and women in ancient Greek robes, reminiscent of the ancient Olympics. Then took place the traditional procession of the national teams.

Came Brezhnev, and went to his place, greeting the audience. Suddenly, over one of the stands appeared twenty meters American flag. It launched two foreign guests. The stadium erupted with a standing ovation.

Team USA ignored the games in Moscow, but American fans were smoothed by the tension. The Soviet people rejoiced. Many then decided that the boycott of the West fell.

The Olympics in the USSR the Communist party lobbied for since the late 60s. the IOC has approved the application in 1974. the Soviet athletes were popular in the world, and foreigners were interested to visit the "country of victorious socialism".

The West is wary embraced the decision of the IOC, but doesn't mind. Canada and the United States expressed readiness to share with the Union organizational experience. In 1976, the KGB officers went to Montreal to learn from their foreign colleagues the intricacies of security at major sporting events.

Yuri Andropov personally came in contact with Western intelligence agencies. Too fresh were the memories of the terrorist attacks against the Israeli team at the Olympics in 1972.

Have thought through every detail. During discharge it was important to adequately and without incident to hold the Olympics. NATO softened its rhetoric against the socialist bloc. Even China has promised to send to Moscow the national team.

That all changed in December 1979, when Soviet troops entered Afghanistan to help Kabul to counter the jihadi groups who patronized US. American reaction has not kept itself waiting long. Jimmy Carter put an ultimatum to Moscow.

"If by February 20, the Soviet troops will leave Afghanistan, the US boycott Olympics-80", — said the President.

Washington joined in 65 countries — not only NATO allies, but also, say, Iran, China and even the socialist Romania.

"Sport and the Olympic movement is apolitical. The Olympics are intended to strengthen the friendship, and the boycott only increases the distrust between the peoples," has criticized the actions of the West the President of the IOC Juan Antonio Samaranch. Listened to it one.

The Olympics has allocated two billion rubles. An example of a Montreal-76 has shown that not all costs are compensated, but the debt is guaranteed.

In the late seventies in the USSR was dominated by scarcity and food, and manufactured goods. People had to buy things and to get it, including from speculators. The Olympics could bring down the fragile Soviet economy. Leonid Brezhnev was seriously thinking to evade the bragging rights to host the major international sports tournament.

"Once it so happened that we decided to spend Sportline in the USSR. This event is worth huge money. Perhaps we should abandon the competition. Know that it will cause a lot of misunderstandings. But some friends told me that it is possible to opt out by paying a small fee in the form of a fine," — wrote the Secretary General in 1975 Konstantin Chernenko.

But Brezhnev persuaded. The refusal of the Olympics, the West would be perceived as a geopolitical defeat in Moscow. The success of the Games, on the contrary, would reinforce the image of a superpower. But the question is, where will the money, was tormented by everyone.

Negotiations with foreign advertisers was not easy. Then decided to release the copies of the Olympic lotteries. Revenue from sports lottery is very helpful.

"Our main question was: how much of a lottery correspond to the code of the Builder of communism? The emergence of “Sportloto” was the answer. The game had a huge impact, people have responded. The lottery, in fact, contained the Olympics and the Soviet sports" — later recalled Viktor Ivonin, a former Deputy Chairman of the USSR sports Committee.

As the construction of sport facilities, more and more foreign companies have agreed to host the Olympic games advertising. The problem with Finance is gradually resolved.

Moreover, the Soviet people had no idea about many products that were advertising on the Games. Moreover, the same gum and Coca-Cola in the USSR was considered ideologically harmful. It turned out, nothing terrible. There were even rumors that before the Olympics opened in Moscow "McDonald's".

Of course, like to see the foreigners saw the country from the best side. In Moscow the usual Soviet reality was transformed in the eyes.

On the shelves there was cheese, sausage, juice and beer aluminum cans, cigarette Marlboro. PepsiCo has established a massive supply of carbonated beverages.

"We first saw Finnish sausage. And yet, marmalades, jams, juices in small packages. We are accustomed to the juices in the big banks, at first not even realized it," recalled the Muscovite Alexander Razdolski, an eyewitness of those events.

While meteorologists have determined the optimal timing of the Games, and the police cleared the capital from criminals, diplomats tried to prevent the boycott. Taking advantage of the situation, some participants put forward their conditions.

So, African countries demanded not to allow Games of a state supporting apartheid in South Africa. China did not want to see representatives of Taiwan. Germany insisted on participation of athletes of West Berlin, but the GDR it did not suit. Pyongyang has asked to be removed from the list of invited team in Seoul.

Western journalists did not hide his pessimism: "Tourists will stay in hostels and schools. It is unclear whether there is enough restaurants. Beer lovers have nothing to do in Moscow. Not worth to hope and the atmosphere of the Paris Nightclubs. Moscow can offer only the famous Bolshoi theatre, the circus, the Tretyakov gallery".

But the headlines in the paper were not paying attention. Did not believe in the boycott of the Olympics. When the Americans, followed by most Western countries refused to go to Moscow, it seemed that the competition will be thwarted.

Not all foreign athletes supported the boycott. The athletes have been preparing for the Olympics-80 and didn't want to miss the most important competitions. The governments of several Western countries has enabled them to play under a neutral flag of the IOC.

Teams of great Britain, Italy, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium arrived almost at full strength, although he never unfurled the national flag. I was in Europe and did not join the boycott: Greece, Austria, Malta, Finland and Sweden.