Thursday, 19 April 2012

Road to Olympics - 1976 Montreal & 1980 Moscow Games Boycotts Galore...

99 days to London Olympic Games, we continue with the Road to Olympics. 
In this review , we look at the forgettable moments in Kenya's history when her sports personalities were affected by economic and geo-political reasons meaning consecutive boycotts in Montreal in 1976 and in Moscow - 1980.

Montreal 1976:
After the breach of tranquil at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, countries across the world decided to use the Games a perfect platform to prove a point or two especially where the Cold War and other political ideologies clashed.
Montreal had seemed to have escaped this up until the opening ceremony when Congolese Jean Claude Ganga and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere among other African leaders urge African countries to leave the Games. This was in protesting a move by the New Zealand rugby team's All Blacks tour to apartheid South Africa ( even though rugby was NOT an Olympic discipline).
Most countries had already sent in their squads and though it was a moral issue to support the boycott, this dented many a sportsmen and women who were approaching the prime or in the sunset of their careers.
Kenya's prowess in the middle and longer distances would not be for show as athletes such as Henry Rono, (Dr). Mike BoitMike Musyoki and also boxers such as Stephen Muchoki - who would never taste Olympic glory.
There were a few highlights though that need be noted from Montreal Games;
  • 10-point score Nadia Comaneci - this is a feat that had never been achieved and has never been attained either. The then 14-year old Romanian ended up winning 3 gold including the prestigious All-Around which effectively put her into Olympic folklore.
  • 5 American boxers won Gold medals in their respective weights. 4 of those would turn professional and have fairly successive careers. These were Sugar Ray Leonard, brothers Leon Spinks and Michael Spinks and Leo Randolph. The fifth boxer was Howard Davis Jr - Val Baker Trophy winner in Montreal - who turned down offers to turn professional.
  • Princess Anne - member of British royalty participated as part of the Horse riding or Equestrian team. She was the ONLY one not forced to comply to a sex-test.
  • Future Japanese PM Taro Aso  took part representing Japan in shooting 
  • 92 countries took part ; 6073 athletes took part in 198 events in 23 disciplines. The drop was obvious due to the late boycotts.
Moscow 1980
After the boycott of the 1976 Games, though the then USSR had tried putting up a marvellous show, its invasion of Afghanistan meant another boycott led this time by USA. The Games were at the height of their propagation by Governments across the world to push their political and economic agendas. The USSR needed to prove that it could pull off a major event of this magnitude but with the other super-power USA able to pull the mat from under them, it didn't quite have the impact the Soviets wanted.
The US held what they called the Liberty Bell Classic also referred to as ' Olympic Boycott Games'.  
Going the Games proper though, due to the reduced number of participants it proved to have few controversies and traditional rivalries never realised. Here's a review of some of the interesting highlights;
  • Ethiopia's Miruts Yifter won the 5000m and 10000m - grabbing the double for the men's events. This was emulating Lasse Viren's feats in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games
  • 5259 athletes participated in 203 events for 23 sports - this represented one of the lowest figures of overall participants since 1968 in Mexico. 
  • East Europe and Communist-leaning nations were among the major winners thanks to the boycott to more capitalist states.
  • The Games had the lowest number of drug cheats since the practice was introduced in 1964 in Tokyo.
  • The closing ceremony introduced a practice of hoisting the next host city's flag and lowering the Olympic flag. 
  • This was the last time Kenya boycotted an Olympic Games 

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