Recently we have experienced the sporting emotions of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. During the opening ceremony, the Russian team was booed. This case made me think to share my memories of the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980. As the time passes so quickly, It’s hard to believe that the Games of the XXII Olympiad was already 36 years ago but memories stay with us forever, especially when they are associated with strong emotions.
Olympics: socialist system versus capitalism
In those communist times it was a great pleasure to participate in the Olympics and be a genuine spectator of these great sport struggles. For me it was especially important, because a trip to the Olympic Games in Moscow was the reward. Personally I could not afford such a trip, especially since I recently graduated. I was very proud to have this award and glad that I would be able to support our athletes at the stadium. During those Olympics 5217 athletes, including 1,124 women participated. Players competed in 203 events in 21 sports. The opening ceremony was on July 19 and ended on August 3. The political circumstances in which they held the Olympics were unfavorable for the hosts. The former Soviet Union was a country with a communist regime. Poland and the countries of the Central and Eastern bloc countries were in a socialist system. The Polish authorities considered the Soviet Union as a friendly country. Nowadays we don’t see on billboards advertising what we saw in the 70s and 80s where political leaders and propaganda slogans confirmed how sincere our friendly fraternal status was.
The socialist countries and the capitalist states formed a rivalry motivated by not only ideology and economics, but also by military. Socialist leaders wanted at any price to show that the socialist system is superior to capitalism, and even the best of all systems. The Soviet Union saw the West as an imperialist threat. It was a time of deepening in the Cold War. Soviet authorities at the time were leading a war in Afghanistan. The United States and other Western countries believed that if the Olympics were to be held in Moscow that this according to the ancient principle pioneered by the Greeks struggles sports must take place in a condition of peace, and that all conflicts should be suspended. For this reason, the Olympics were boycotted by most of the countries of the West such as the USA, Canada, Norway and the German Federal Republic. It was a sanction on Russia’s military intervention in Afghanistan. In this way, Moscow lacked representation of members from all 63 countries. There weren’t also representatives of the Republic of China, which previously did not take an active part in the world’s sporting life.
Olympics in Moscow: the strangest and most expensive in history
For the organizers it was not a favorable situation, because the Soviet Union had invested nine billion dollars into the development of the sports complex and Olympic village at Luzhniki Stadium. Boating was held in the waters of Tallinn in Estonia. The Russians suffered all the costs for the preparation of the Olympic Games. Most countries performed under the flags of their own Olympic committees. I remember that the sector designed for the West was empty. How sad it was.
The opening of the Olympics was attended by the secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev. The Olympic torch was lit by Russian athlete Sergei Belov heralding the official start of the Olympic Games. The bear Mischka, was the mascot of the Olympic sports. Mischka looked at the Olympics participants, who in a colorful procession arrived in the stadium, presenting their beautiful sport costumes. In addition, was the flapping of flags of different colors. It is a pity that not all of the flags and why this is, I explained it earlier.
Olympics in Moscow : Poland joy and famous gesture Kozakiewicz
The Olympics is for athletes and it is an opportunity to demonstrate their sport skills, this has worked for years and has won many medals. The sporting spirit has been maintained at a high level of games and even beat 36 world records. For me, as for other Poles, the greatest event in the Olympics was winning the gold medal in the pole vault by Polish athlete Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz. His gesture to the audience, later called Kozakiewicz’s gesture, will be forever remembered. Probably you are wondering what lies at the origin of this and why Kozakiewicz’s gesture has gained such immense symbolic importance. Kozakiewicz won the gold medal, beating national hero and favorite Olympic Konstantin Volkov. He won with him in spite of the unfavorable attitude of the audience, who suspected fraud from the opening to the closing of the gates of the stadium. Athletes after winning the jump showed the audience the famous gesture. After this event, the Russian ambassador in Poland demanded that he receive this medal.
The other medalist was Jacek Wszoła in the high jump. I remember the euphoria and joy as the Poles went crazy. Most of the night people didn’t sleep and sang songs. The Polish fans joined in the dancing with fans from other countries. The atmosphere was unique and it was one of those evenings which you will remember for a lifetime and are proud of being Polish.
The organization of the summer Olympic passed into history
To assess the Olympics in terms of organization, I have to admit that the hosts tried. Maybe it was not as extravagant as it is today but you could organize and watch. For example, in the bathrooms instead of paper they were pages of newspapers, but that time nobody was surprised. That was 36 years ago, so not only other technical and set design but also people’s mentality was different. For refreshment there was good food. Basing on the labels, many products came from Scandinavia. There was also a rich cultural program. I was able to attend concerts, walks and tours around the city. It was taken care to make us feel welcome during the Olympics.
Perhaps another interesting fact. Moscow is a very large city in terms of territorial and population center, and there a lot of cars of good brands. In those days it was a city with plenty of space and broad roads which were built so that the tanks could cross them. Car rides were not much. The best means of transportation were taxis. for a few kopecks you could move around the city. Another great mode of transport was the metro stations of the city; you could reach many parts of the city. The Metro distinguished itself from other systems in size and splendor. Some stations even resembled palaces with gilded chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
Olympics in Moscow: doping and fair play game
In retrospect, when I watch the modern Olympics, it certainly has changed a lot. There are some new sports of course. Games are more technological and modern. I think more could be observed in the behavior as it relates to fair play and the examples of doping. If used doping, it was a great secret. These cases only appeared many years later. Today, it is easier to detect doping substances in athletes, because there are modern laboratories. Previously such actions were not only politically incorrect, but were unthinkable. Despite this, there are violations of the fair play rules by athletes. It is too commercialized, and that’s not the point.
One thing for sure is, and remains unchangeable. True athletes fighting for their trophies and are proud when thy stand on the podium and the speaker plays the national anthem of their home country; seeing just how happy they are. Just so proud and full of joy were the Polish athletes and fans during the summer of 1980 in Moscow. Despite these difficult circumstances the Olympics were at a high level. Poland then won 3 gold medals, 14 silver and 15 bronze medals. Poland took 10th place in the medal standings. The first place was taken by the Russians and then the German Democratic Republic and Bulgarians. Poles left Moscow happy and proud that proudly represented their country. Surely then and now the Olympics is a great sporting event which, like music brings nations together. This event which should be attended by everyone at least once in their lifetime. With this sentiment I came back to 1980 and shared with you my memories.