296. Editorial Note

On January 20, 1980, telegram 15459 to all diplomatic posts instructed the posts to inform the chief of state that President Jimmy Carter “cannot support United States participation in the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, the capital city of a nation whose invading military forces are occupying Afghanistan.” Carter announced, “I am requesting that the [U.S. Olympic] Committee work with other National Olympic Committees to seek the transfer or cancellation of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games unless the Soviet Union withdraws its troops from Afghanistan within the next month. If the Soviets do not withdraw and the games are not transferred or cancelled, I am asking that the United States Olympic Committee not participate in the games in Moscow, and instead, work with other nations to organize alternative games.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P870143–1334) Carter’s letter to the President of the U.S. Olympic Committee is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1980, pp. 106–107.

Telegram 958 from Beijing, February 1, transmitted a response from Chinese Premier Hua Guofeng: “It is obviously inappropriate to hold the summer Olympic Games in Moscow while the Soviet Union continues to occupy Afghanistan in disregard of the resolution of the U.N. General Assembly. The Chinese Government is going to issue a public statement in support of urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide on the transfer or cancellation of the games. In case the International Olympic Committee fails to make such a decision, the Chinese Government hopes that all justice-upholding countries take common action to stay away from the Moscow Olympic Games and organize alternative games as appropriate.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P900105–0512) Ultimately, the People’s Republic of China was one of the countries that boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

There was also controversy surrounding Taiwanese participation, due to a dispute concerning the name, flag, and anthem under which athletes from Taiwan would compete. The United States involved itself in this controversy when Herbert Rathner, a Foreign Service officer detailed to the International Communication Agency, sent a letter to Ju[Page 1085]lien Roosevelt, a U.S. Olympic Committee representative to the IOC. The letter stated, “Regarding Chinese participation in the games, this is a decision for the International Olympic Committee. As for government contacts the United States as of January 1, 1979, recognized the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China. At the same time, the United States withdrew diplomatic recognition of the authorities on Taiwan. As a consequence of this withdrawal of recognition, we also do not recognize as symbols of national sovereignty the flag and anthem of the ‘Republic of China’. However, we do continue to make visa facilities available to travelers from Taiwan.” Concerned that this controversy might impair the success of the winter games, which the United States was hosting, Rathner added, “With respect to the details concerning the Lake Placid games, we hope that the International Olympic Committee will find a solution which will avoid politicizing the games in a way which could cause embarrassment to the host or the International Olympic Committee itself.” (Telegram 238607 to Dublin, September 11, 1979; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790415–0731)

Taiwan protested the IOC’s decision to enclose this U.S. letter in the mail ballot sent to IOC members. (Telegram 4051 from AIT Taipei to AIT Washington, November 6, 1979; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790512–0761) The IOC’s postal vote resulted in a decision to deny Taiwan use of the name, flag, and anthem that it sought, and as a result, Taiwan boycotted both the Olympic winter games in February 1980 and the summer games in July–August of the same year. (Telegram 950 from AIT Taipei to AIT Washington, February 28, 1980; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800108–0073)