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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Protest Cut Teams At Moscow

NEW YORK -- It could've been exciting; it would've been historic; it should've been galvanizing for the world's athletic nations. Moscow was the host city for the 1980 Summer Games, the first Olympics staged in a country with a Communist regime. But the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, once again bringing politics to the forefront of the Olympics. President Jimmy Carter threatened a boycott if the Soviet Union did not withdraw its troops. Soviet aggression continued and the United States, along with more than 60 nations, boycotted. Coulda, woulda, shoulda ... a full Moscow Olympics wasn't meant to be.


The Games went on -- only World War I in 1916 and World War II in 1940 and '44 forced total cancellations -- but with a reduced field of 80 nations and about 5,200 athletes.


Perhaps the most anticipated duel was on the track, between fellow British and middle-distance marvels Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe. While the two runners had taken turns setting records in the 800, 1,500 and mile (not an Olympic event), they had hardly ever raced head-to-head. At Moscow, where they would meet for the first time in two years, Coe was the favorite in the 800 and Ovett in the 1,500. But as Olympic filmmaker and historian Bud Greenspan noted recently, "They switched places. It was as if the wrong guy won each race." Ovett surprised by winning the 800 and Coe returned the favor by taking the 1,500.


In boxing, Cuba's Teofilo Stevenson won his third straight heavyweight gold. Even more amazing was that he fought off promoters who wanted him to turn pro as easily as he dispatched opponents.


He remained an amateur and the pride of Fidel Castro's island nation. When Cuba joined the Soviet Union and other nations in boycotting the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, it cost Stevenson a chance to win four straight Olympic golds.


"I have what I need," he said. "I feel happy inside."


If only the rest of the world felt the same way in the 1980s.