Special Report

14 Times the Olympics Were Canceled, Boycotted, or Postponed

Source: Getty Images / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1980 Summer Games
> Disruption: Boycott
> Reason: Political
> Location: Moscow

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan at the end of 1979, the U.S. led a boycott of more than 60 nations against the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The boycott included Canada, Israel, Japan, China, and West Germany, as well as many Islamic nations. A few countries allowed their athletes to compete, but not the United States – some of whose athletes unsuccessfully sued the US Olympic Committee in an effort to be allowed to participate. Only 80 countries competed in the 1980 Olympics, the fewest since 1956. The Soviet Union, with much of its competition absent, won 195 medals, which is still a record.

Source: Steve Powell / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1984 Summer Games
> Disruption: Boycott
> Reason: Political
> Location: Los Angeles

In a reprisal for the multi-nation boycott of the previous Summer Olympics in Moscow, the Soviet Union and 13 other countries, mostly Eastern Bloc nations, boycotted the Olympics in Los Angeles. An official Soviet government statement said it feared physical attacks on its athletes and protests in the United States. The Games were nonetheless attended by 140 nations and were a resounding financial success. The event also was noteworthy for the return to the Olympics of China, which had not participated since 1952.

Source: Gray Mortimore / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

1988 Summer Games
> Disruption: Boycott
> Reason: Political
> Location: Seoul, Republic of Korea

The last Olympic Games of the Cold War era had their share of political machinations. North Korea, incensed over not being permitted to co-host the Summer Games with South Korea, refused to attend the event in Seoul. Cuba, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua joined North Korea in a gesture of socialist solidarity. The Soviet Union, however, chose to compete, as did China and the Eastern Bloc nations. The boycott did little to hurt the Games, which set a record for participation, with 159 nations sending athletes.

Source: Matt Roberts / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

2020 Summer Games
> Disruption: Postponement
> Reason: COVID-19
> Location: Tokyo

The Summer Olympics were scheduled to return to Tokyo for the first time since 1964, but because of the pandemic, the Games were rescheduled to 2021. It was the first time the Olympic Games had been postponed, and the first time they were held in an odd year.

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