U.S. Congress Awards Congressional Gold Medals to 1980 Olympic Team

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5. EVERYONE by now should know the story of how the Cold War destroyed the hopes and dreams of hundreds of athletes in the early 80s.

First, when the United States elected to boycott the 1980 Moscow Games due to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Then, the Soviets returned the favor during the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

In 1980, the United States Congress attempted to assuage the feelings of despair within the ranks of the American Olympians, but came up a bit short as Congress awarded gold-plated bronze medals while also charging the United States Olympic Committee for the cost of said medals.

Recently, however, the United States Congress returned to the issue nearly 28 years later. According to a report by Alan Abrahamson of NBCOlympics.com, "the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives added the 466 members of the 1980 team to its list of recipients of what's called the ‘Congressional Gold Medal,' its highest and most distinguished civilian award."

This is an unprecedented move, as the United States has only awarded the medal 136 times previously.

"This is a watershed moment for a team that has literally been forgotten in most places," Mike Moran, a USOC spokesman from 1979 until 2003, told NBCOlympics.com.

The process began as Dave Sims and Ron Neugent, two swimmers who were part of the boycott, began to research more information about the medals this past year. Neugent sent letters to various members of the government, including his congressman, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan). Tiahrt then began the process to have each of the initial medals awarded in 1980 to be upgraded to the status of ‘Congressional Gold Medals'.

"Many mixed emotions come with this announcement," Swimming World Technical Advisor Glenn Mills, who was personally impacted by the boycott, told Swimming World. "First, a very heartfelt thank you to Dave Sims and Ron Neugent. Thanks for caring enough to research and fight for recognition. Regardless of the significance of the medals, or the loss we all feel for not having had the chance to participate and represent our country, I feel the overriding message in this story is how we've all remained friends over the years. This is a team that shares a special bond. Dave and Ron's caring for all the athletes, and the heartfelt letter he wrote to all of us is a testament that no matter what our signification to the outside world, we remain The 1980 U.S. Olympic Team."

Full text of the NBCOlympics.com article.

By special request of Krissy via Reaction Time for a list of the 1980 squad, here's something we feel will be a bit more impactful:

Full PDF copy of Swimming World's coverage from the August 1980 issue

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