#34 Jimmy Carter

It’s funny but sometimes when I look back at people and events that occurred during my generation, it is almost as if I may have missed them completely.  Or maybe they happened, and were really big items, but I was distracted and not paying much attention.  Or maybe my memory is just not what it used to be.

If you look it up, Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States was actually a tennis player and a pole vaulter during his youth.  He played a little golf and still loves the outdoors at 95 years of age.  But this sports story is not about Jimmy Carter’s athletic career.  This story is about how Jimmy changed the careers of so many Americans and other Olympic hopefuls from the 50-plus countries that ended up boycotting the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.  You can probably imagine how the boycott might be handled if it were to occur 40 years later, in the year 2020.  I am pretty sure that would be something I would remember.

1980 was a difficult time in world-wide politics, but then again, what year is not so difficult?  Russia had invaded Afghanistan for some political reason in 1979; I suppose to save the Communist doctrine from being superseded by some other political platform or group.  From what I hear, it was not a popular invasion.  In order to convince Russia to withdraw from Afghanistan, President Carter, and a few other leaders of the free-world countries decided to give Russia an ultimatum to withdraw, or they would decide to withdraw from the upcoming Olympics in Moscow.  Despite attempts by both sides to come to middle-ground, the efforts failed.  Carter turned to his allies to follow in his decision to boycott.  50 countries decided to side with the US.  80 countries elected to attend.

Obviously, hundreds of U.S. performers at the height of their careers were affected by the 1980 boycott.  Many were able to keep it going and stay in shape and qualified for the 1984 games.  Many of those who had qualified to compete in 1980 never made it to the future games, except as spectators.  A group of 25 sued the government in order to overturn the decision and allow them to compete; their case failed.

There are 466 stories of American qualifiers who did not get to compete in Moscow in 1980.  Many have stories that are similar to Craig Beardsley’s.  Beardsley set the World record in the 200 Meter Butterfly in a U.S. pool, just 10 days after he was scheduled to swim the event in the Olympic finals.  His winning time was over a second faster than the time that took the gold at Moscow.  Beardsley attempted to qualify for the 1984 games, but fell short in the event by less than a half second.

466 lives forever altered.  And here we are; still in Afghanistan.

I am sure Jimmy Carter looks back at his decision today.  I am sure that Carter has some regrets about going the direction he went.

 SSOMG may have just blocked out the memory of this whole moment and the U.S.-less 1980 Olympic Games.  Seems like a forgettable moment.  The postponement of the 2020 Olympic games brings the event back to mind, if only for a minute.  Let’s hope that 466 of today’s athletes don’t get caught in a similar boycott, brought on by the invasion of the Virus.  Let’s hope the Games go on, sometime real soon.

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