COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, July 17. IT might not be related to swimming, but the United States Olympic Committee certainly released a strong statement today against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who recently called for a U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
"If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work," USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky said. "Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict. It did, however, deprive hundreds of American athletes, all whom had completely dedicated themselves to representing our nation at the Olympic Games, of the opportunity of a lifetime. It also deprived millions of Americans of the opportunity to take pride in the achievements of our athletes, and in their dedication and commitment, at a time when we needed it most. While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country's best interests."
Yesterday, Graham called for a boycott of the Winter Games in Russia to send them "the most unequivocal signal I could send them" with Russia looking to provide National Security Agency leak Edward Snowden some safe harbor. Snowden recently requested asylum from Russia after living for almost a month in the Moscow airport. Snowden is facing charges of espionage by the United States for leaking information related to NSA programs that spied on U.S. citizens.
The swimming community knows full well how harmful an Olympic boycott can be for athletes. In 1980, the U.S. boycotted the Olympics held in Russia due to Russian involvement in Afghanistan. Russia returned the favor at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
"The 1980 boycott was a failure in what it set out to do, just as a boycott today would be a failure," 1980 Olympian Glenn Mills told Swimming World. "Politicians need to learn that they shouldn't use young athletes as pawns to do the job they've been elected to do. If this specific politico doesn't like what Russia is doing, then he should use the channels available to him to get something done. Stay out of sport."
For a full look into the 1980 boycott and how it impacted swimmers, check out Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games