- Participating nations: 80
- Number of athletes: 5,217 (4,092 men - 1,125 women)
- Time of year: July 19 - August 3
- Number of events: 203
- Swedish medals: 3 gold, 3 silver, 6 bronze
The Olympic Games in Moscow were turbulent, at least in the time leading up to the Games. The African boycott in Montreal had made the politicians aware of the impact of the Olympic Games. But there were many things to feel optimistic about. China had reentered the Olympic family and made its comeback in the Winter Olympics a few months earlier. The Soviet organizers had also promised that they would hoist the Israeli flag on the Olympic flag poles in Moscow. In other words, most things seemed to work out.
But that didn´t happen. The American president Jimmy Carter had seen how his incredibly poor poll ratings had gone up after a harsh statement made in connection with the Tehran crisis. Carter wanted to show even more muscle to the opinion at home and therefore demanded that all the countries who had supported the UN resolution condemning the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan show this through actions by boycotting the Games in Moscow.
The Swedes had their policy figured out: Sweden should participate in Olympic Games, World Championships and European Championships regardless of political confrontations elsewhere in the world.
The Olympic Flag Was Frequently UsedSome Western European countries solved the internal sports political problems by entering under the Olympic flag and not their own national flags. Sweden, Finland, Austria and Greece were the only countries in Western Europe who competed under their own flags.The large nations which boycotted the Games were the United States, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Canada, Norway and Kenya.
Many countries stayed home because of economical difficulties and others because they didn´t have qualified athletes. These reasons caused the IOC to start different support programs for these countries to enable them to take part, in one way or the other, in future Olympic Games.
In connection with the Games and the 83rd session of the IOC, the IOC elected their seventh president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, from Spain, who took over the presidency from Lord Killanin.
Samaranch, aged 60, had been an IOC member since 1966. He said the following after the Games, with the future of the Olympic Games and the boycott in mind:
“The Summer Games in Moscow were preceded by the perhaps most serious crisis in the history of the Olympic movement. But the IOC made it through, and our movement came out of the difficult situation with increased strength and prestige. The American action against the Olympic Games in Moscow will not lead to any Russian counterattacks on the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. I believe that we will there experience an “Olympiad of reconciliation".
By now, we all know how that went.
Well Directed GamesBut the Games in Moscow were a well directed show where talented television directors made sure that very little could be seen of the boycott on television around the world. But the Americans didn´t get to see very much at all from the Games. A few short news clipping a day, that was all!
The opening ceremony was boycotted by several Western European countries, but this was barely noticed. The images that have stayed with us were those of the perfectly orchestrated performance featuring the massive displays that the Soviets had had many years of experience with, not the least from all the May-Day celebrations in the Red Square. But this time it was all about sports.
The most spectacular part of the opening ceremony was the lighting of the Olympic flame. Many were wondering how on earth the torchbearer would get to his final destination. But as the torchbearer approached, the soldiers sitting in that section formed a human bridge.
The Olympic village was very big, it had room for 18,000 people and, because of the boycott, all the nations had plenty of space. The women still had their own special village, this time it was an “island" within the larger village.
So, how did the Swedes do in Moscow? Well, they took three gold, three silver and six bronze medals. That put Sweden in 12th place in the overall ranking. These results were considered okay, but there were some critics who talked about “devaluated Olympic medals". But all of Eastern Europe and the majority of Western Europe took part, and there was really no reason for the Swedish medallists to think less of their achievements.
The Right Lane in the Pool
The Swedes took two of their three gold medals in the Olympic pool, in lane five. Pär Arvidsson lived up to the high expectations people had of him and Bengt Baron caused a sensation by doing what no one had expected.
Pär Arvidsson had swept the floor with his American competitors at the University Championships in the United States, and he was a favorite in both the 100 m and 200 m butterfly. That´s why his taking seventh place in the 200 m the first day came as a cold shower. Pär concluded that he had been unsuccessful in reaching top form and knew that the 100 m were not going to be any easier.
But he was wrong - fortunately.
Pär had broken the world record (54.15) and was the favorite on the 100 m butterfly, but that was before the 200 m.
The final battle was a real thriller, Pär Arvidsson was getting more and more tired on the last 10-15 meters, and the East German veteran Roger Pyttel, in lane seven, advanced at an incredible speed. But Arvidsson was able to stay ahead of him and won on the time 54.92, two tiny hundredths of a second before Pyttel.
Bengt Baron´s final on the 100 m backstroke came the day after Pär Arvidsson had failed on the 200 m butterfly. Bengt had a inspired some hope in the semi-final when he managed to break the Swedish record. But no one believed it would be good enough to win him the gold medal in the final. The Russian swimmer Kuznetzov was the big favorite. Baron was in the lead after 50 meters, but everyone was waiting for Kuznetzov´s long spurt. But Kuznetzov never made it beyond second place. Instead, Baron was able to add to his lead and win by 46 hundredths of a second, the best result in the world that year. Not even the Americans had swum that fast. But Bengt didn´t know that he had won. As soon as his hand touched the tile he looked up at the scoreboard and saw that lane five had won. But just to be sure he had to check that he really was the one who had swum in lane five. Following that one-second procedure he threw himself out of the water, overwhelmed with joy.
But the swimmers hadn´t had enough. The Swedish swim team also took both the silver and bronze medals on the 100 m freestyle through Per Holmertz and Per Johansson. The Swedish women took silver on the 4x100 m, which was as surprising as Baron´s gold medal.
Golden Surprise by the FencersThe third Swedish gold went to the epée fencer Johan Harmenberg. This medal was a bit of a sensation since all the speculations before the Games revolved around the whole team and their ability to defend the gold medal they had taken in Montreal. But the team didn´t get past the quarter finals.
Harmenberg was able to win the gold medal by the narrowest margin possible. In three of the final matches he won by only one hit. But Rolf Edling, who came in fourth place, didn´t have the margins on his side. One more hit, and Edling would have taken the silver medal.
In athletics, there were hopes that Sweden would be able to do something after Gärderud´s success in Montreal. But the hopes were never realized, the best result was Linda Haglund´s fourth place in the 100 m.
The walkers took fourth place on the 50 km through Bengt Simonsson. Bosse Gustafsson was disqualified 350 meters from the finish line, in the stadium, when he was about to take the bronze medals. He had been warned once, but he was not aware of it.
One of Sweden´s favorite sports, canoeing, was a disappointment and the best result in any of the canoeing events was one fifth place position. The wrestlers, on the other hand, took two bronze medals through Benni Ljungbäck in the bantamweight and Lars-Erik Skiöld in the lightweight. The 1977 World Champion, Frank Andersson, didn´t make it onto the winners´ stand and took fourth place in the middleweight.
The modern pentathletes kept it together and took a bronze medal in the team competition. Another bronze medal went to the tornado yachtsmen Göran Marström and Jörgen Ragnarsson.
The shooters were successful and took two medals. One silver medal in the skeet through Lars-Göran Carlsson and one bronze medal through Sven Johansson in the free rifle.
The Running DuellInternationally, the running duel, or the “hate match", between the two British runners Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett was the event that was the most written about. Ovett was made out to be the “bad boy", whereas the eloquent Coe was put forth as “good".
This battle ended in a tie, Coe took the gold medal on the 1,500 m and Ovett did the same on the 800 m.
The Lenin Stadium was probably the place where the boycott was noticed the most. No Americans or West Germans, but there were still six world records. There was a lot a talk about how the Russians cheated. It was said that the gates to the stadium were opened whenever it was time for one of the Russian javelin throwers, that the officials in the pole vault could be recognized as Russian coaches and that legitimate jumps were ruled out in the triple jump. But a lot of what was said had been brought up as a result of the politics surrounding the Games.
Teofilo Stevenson, from Cuba, who was boxing in the heavyweight class, was able to take his third straight gold medal. This time, his moves were a bit slower, which meant that his opponents didn´t receive the same harsh treatment they had experienced in Montreal four years earlier.
The Americans were given a flip on the nose when the Soviet Vladimir Salnikov became the first person to swim 1,500 meters in under 15 minutes. This had been a goal for the American swimmers for a long time, and it was a time they would of course try to beat in the Games in Los Angeles.