Olympic Boycott: Athletes Can't Compete With Snowden


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Remember that time Jimmy Carter declared a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics and everything went smoothly? Oh, wait, the boycott was the most universally derided decision of his presidency?

Well, another politician has decided to see whether the same scenario might play out a bit better thirty-plus years on.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has decided that the US should consider forbidding athletes from competing at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, if Russia opts to give asylum to fugitive Edward Snowden. Graham called the fact that Russia would even consider granting Snowden asylum a “slap in the face” and declared that he wanted to “send the Russians the most unequivocal signal [he] could send them.”

Arizona Republican John McCain has countered that the 1980 boycott “wasn’t very good,” hence, following the same blueprint today is unlikely to make headway in a geopolitical debate. Following the 1980 boycott of Moscow in response to the USSR invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, a boycott that many Western nations joined, the Soviet bloc countries likewise refused to participate in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The boycott of the 1980 Games had no discernible effect on Soviet policy in Afghanistan.

United States Olympic Committee spokesperson Patrick Sandusky has issued the following statement:

If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work.

Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict. It did, however, deprive hundreds of American athletes, all whom had completely dedicated themselves to representing our nation at the Olympic Games, of the opportunity of a lifetime.

It also deprived millions of Americans of the opportunity to take pride in the achievements of our athletes, and in their dedication and commitment, at a time when we needed it most.

216 American athletes took part in the last winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, 37 of whom took home medals.