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.

Mongolia #1106-12 pictures seven different events.

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 was 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.

Eight nations made their first Olympic appearances: Angola, Botswana, Laos, Nicaragua, 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 #UC52 – 1980 Olympics Aerogramme First Day Cover.


The USPS issued the set of four 1980 Summer Olympic Games stamps on September 28, 1979, 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.  Once the games ended, the stamps were sold again.

Cape Verde #403-08 – Set of 6 stamps issued for the Moscow games.
Zimbabwe #433 was issued for the 1980 Summer Olympics.
Antigua #561 pictures a boxing event.
Mongolia #114-18 picture Olympic athletes and medals.
Korea #1999 pictures some of the winning athletes.
Russia #4877 pictures the mascot and a map of the events.
Russia #B106 – Russian semi-postal issued for the games.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
Share this Article


  1. Jimmy Carter did the wrong thing. He should NOT have boycotted the Olympic Games. In
    Ancient Greece and later the wars and differences between nations were put aside for the duration
    of the games. The same should have happened in 1980. There were many other ways to
    protest what the Soviet Union did, but boycotting the games should not have been one of
    those. For many U.S. Athletes this was their ONLY chance at participating in an Olympics.

  2. You are right, Kenneth, Jimmy Carter made a big mistake by mixing politics with the Olympic Games. He overlooked the fact that the U.S. illegally interfered in Vietnam’s internal affairs, but still the then Soviet Union participated in the Olympic Games during those years. Let’s leave politics out of the Olympic Games or any sports so that athletes will be able to achieve their athletic skills. Sadly, the only victims were American athletes who could not attend the 1980 games as their bodies could not stay any younger.

  3. Another blunder by President Carter. Sadly for the athletes and the US. one of many from his term.

  4. I find myself wondering if it was Ronald Reagan that boycotted there would be much less criticism for this. I am sure HE would have been raised us as a hero for it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *