It’s forty years to the day since the Olympics that nearly never were – Moscow 1980.
Five legends of British sport left those Games with gold medals – Seb Coe, Steve Ovett, Daley Thompson, Duncan Goodhew and Allan Wells – but others did not even get the chance to compete.
Sixty-six nations, led by the United States, decided to boycott in protest to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, Team GB head Dick Palmer and then BOA chairman Sir Denis Follows found themselves at the centre of a political maelstrom.
With politicians in the House of Commons voting 315 to 147 against attending and asking questions about the team going, some sports elected not to attend, including hockey, equestrian and sailing.
But a team of 219, 149 men and 70 women, eventually departed, finishing seventh in the medal table with five golds, seven silvers and nine bronzes.
The ‘Sailing Team that never was’ comprised:
Tornado – Rob White and David Campbell-James
Finn – Chris Law,
Soling – Colin Simonds, Gavin Simonds and Chris Osborne
Star – Andrew Hurst and Iain Woolward
Flying Dutchman – Patrick Blake and Christian Houchin
470 – Eddie Warden Owen and Jeremy Richards
When London bid for the 2012 Games, Lord Coe – who won 1500m gold and 800m silver in Moscow – credited Britain’s decision to attend (Moscow 1980) as being crucial to delivering votes even a quarter of a century later.
No recognition was forthcoming from the Government, the British Olympic Association or the RYA, then or later at the London 2012 Games to recognise the sacrifice the competitors who were prevented from going had made!
The American Olympic team was welcomed at the White House and Congressional medals were awarded to the team members in recognition of the sacrifices they made when the United States boycotted the 1980 Games.