1980 Summer Olympics

US #1791-94 were issued before the US decided to boycott the games.

On July 19, 1980, the Summer Olympic Games opened in Moscow, Soviet Union.  They were the first Olympics to be held in Eastern Europe.

Moscow was selected as the host city for these games in 1974, beating out Los Angeles by 19 votes.  The games would only include 80 nations, the smallest number since 1956, as a result of protests led by US President Jimmy Carter.

US #1791-94 – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

In late December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and began nearly 10 years of fighting between the two countries.  The invasion was sparked by a Soviet desire to keep communist leaders in power in Afghanistan.  In response, US President Jimmy Carter denounced the Soviet Union’s actions and gave a State of the Union address to America promising to keep Middle East oil supplies safe from Soviet influence.

US #1791-94 – Classic First Day Cover.

Carter also imposed economic sanctions, a trade embargo, and led a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.  Eventually, 65 other countries joined in the boycott as well.  In spite of this, athletes from some of those nations still participated, playing under the Olympic Flag.

US #1790 was issued in September 1979.

Many of the boycotting countries attended the Liberty Bell Classic (commonly called the “Olympic Boycott Games”) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, instead.  Four years later, the Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles, California, and the Soviet Union and its allies boycotted them in response to the 1980 boycott.

In spite of the controversy surrounding the games in Moscow, they went ahead as planned, opening on July 19, 1980.  The opening ceremony included a parade of Greek chariots and a series of artistic performances.  Among these performances were a dance suite of the traditional dances of the 15 Soviet republics, a gymnastics display, and a children’s performance.

In all, 5,179 athletes (4,064 men and 1,115 women) from 80 nations participated in 203 events in 21 sports during the games.  A total of 21% of the competitors were female, the highest percentage up to that point.  And the total of 203 events was the most up to that time in Olympic history.

More records were set than at the Montreal Olympics, with 36 World records, 39 European records, and 74 Olympic records.  Throughout the games, new Olympic records were set 241 times and world records were beaten 97 times.

US #1790 – Colorano Silk cachet First Day Cover.

Seven nations made their first Olympic appearances: Angola, Botswana, Laos, Jordan, Seychelles, Mozambique, and Cyprus.  Additionally, Zimbabwe made its first appearance under its new name, having previously competed as Rhodesia.

The games came to an end on August 3.  In all, Russia won the most medals with 195, of which 80 were gold.

The US 1980 Olympic Games Stamps

US #C97 – Because of a dispute with the International Olympic Committee, the US stamps couldn’t picture the Olympic rings, so they pictured stars instead.

In late 1979, the USPS issued several stamps and postal items in anticipation of the Olympics, mere months before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  After that invasion and President Jimmy Carter’s call to boycott the games, the stamps were removed from sale.  That quickly drove up demand for the stamps.  Dealers were paying up to seven times the face value of the stamps.  The day after the games ended, the USPS suddenly made all the stamps available through the philatelic Bureau.  They stated it was to honor “the fine men and women of the US Olympic team who sacrificed months and years of training.”  

US #UX80 – Postal card issued in September 1979.
US #UC52 – 1980 Olympics Aerogramme First Day Cover.
US #UXC18 – Airmail Postal Card issued in December 1979.
Russia #B85-90
Russia #B96-106

You can view more 1980 Olympics stamps here and here.

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  1. There was a difference between the Soviet Invasion and the U.S. led coalition.
    We went in to get Osama Bin Laden because thew Taliban Government was giving him sanction and the attack on the U.S. was led from Afghanistan.

  2. Afghanistan stands as just another example of foreign gratitude for U.S. aid and support. We supplied the Afghans in their fight against Soviet aggression, and were repaid with Bin Laden and the Taliban selling the story of how the U.S. hates Islam as a result. A cynic would point out that we probably should have let the Soviets have the place. No good deed goes unpunished.

    1. In reality, as bad as Communism is, it is preferrable to Theocratic rule
      that we find in current day Iran and Afghanistan, especially Iran because
      they threaten all nations around them. We should have just let the Soviets
      stay because later in 1989 to 1991 the USSR broke apart. Afghanistan has
      nothing we need.

  3. In his effort to boost support for his boycott, President Carter enlisted support from Bruce Jenner, of previous olympic fame for the decathlon. Initially Jenner had opposed the the boycott but swayed to the persuasion of the president. While the boycott in the minds of most opinions was politically correct, it was a hypocracy for Jenner to be the primary advocate of this. Had it not been for the previous olympics, we would not even be familiar at all with Mr. Jenner and the fortune that he accumulated because of his accomplishments. The decision to boycott was correct. Again, it should not have been Jenner to be the headline endorsement. Of course he has won fame since for flipflopping on various issues.

  4. Thanks, Mystic … I now have a better and more clear understanding of President Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Olympics held in communist-Russia … and think it was the correct decision. Sadly, a LOT of excellent athletes from the USA and other great Nations that also boycotted the event paid a huge price for not being able to participate, missing the 1980 Olympics after incredible preparation to participate. They had to be incredibly disappointed for losing their opportunity to personally win an Olympic Medal and great Honor for their Country. I am really sad about that … but constant, immediate and instant communism, Nazism, Monarchies, dictatorships and other forms of brutal, murderous and worthless authoritarian population- control is … to me … even worse … and somehow needs to be abolished. Red China, North Korea, even today’s “Russia” and other countries, like Venezuela, need to be made free and independent so their citizens can be like those in control of their country’s population … free and independent … because of their despicable individual authoritarian wealth and iron-clad control to do what THEY want to do without caring anything about the rest of their Nation’s population except to ensure THEY stay in control and everyone else has to do what THEY say !!! After traveling in almost 80 countries during my professional working career (AND … serving in the U.S. Army !!) … there is NO doubt in MY mind about why the USA is the single greatest Country on Earth . There have been some improved changes across the planet since WW I ended, but MUCH more is needed for the millions who suffer today under the control of daily in-place worthless authoritarianism !! Just MY opinion.

  5. Thank you MR. George Eliades CAE. I am a person together with my younger
    brother and my parents, fled a country as a result of the communist who came to power in 1959. I was only seven years old, and my brother was a mere baby. I applaud your comment on the truth behind those systems of governments.

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