The Olympics started in Ancient Greece, with rumors that Heracles and Zeus organized the first one.
Continuing the mysterious tradition that captivates the world, the 1980s Olympics had their share of powerful people and events.
1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow
The biggest news of the first 1980s Olympics was the boycott. The United States, along with 64 other nations, were expressing their disagreement with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The games saw the smallest number of nations participating since 1956, and those that wanted to compete but still make political statement competed under the Olympic flag.
Pressing on despite the boycott, there were six nations competing for the first time: Botswana, Laos, Mozambique, Angola, Seychelles, and Jordan.
When the games were over, the Soviet Union ended up earning the highest medal count with 195 – 80 of them being gold. Behind them was East Germany with 126 and Bulgaria with 41.
1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid
These games are home to the ‘Miracle on Ice.’ The young, inexperienced U.S. ice hockey team was up against the seemingly unbeatable Soviets. The political issues between the two countries made this game one of the most intense events of the Olympics. The underdog U.S. team won – and shocked the world.
The U.S. still had to beat Finland for the gold, which they did, and the Soviets wound up taking silver. The Olympic center was later renamed the Herb Brooks Arena to honor the coach of this legendary U.S. Olympic hockey team.
In other icy news, speed skater Eric Heiden won five gold medals, sweeping the men’s events and setting four Olympic records and one world record.
1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles
Another Olympics, another boycott. This time it was the Soviet Union and 14 other nations boycotting in retaliation of the 1980 Moscow fiasco.
Some highlights included outstanding performances by first-time Olympian track star Carl Lewis. Lewis won four gold medals – the 100 m, 200 m, 4x100 relay, and the long jump.
The women’s marathon was held for the first time and was won by Joan Benoit, while Carlos Lopes won the men’s marathon and beat 24-year-old Olympic record. By doing this, he also earned Portugal’s first gold medal ever.
Mary Lou Retton won the all-around gymnastics gold, becoming the first female outside Eastern Europe to do so.
1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo
This was the second time the games were held in a Communist state, but the first time for the winter games.
There were many more firsts throughout the games: Bill Johnson won a downhill skiing event – the first American, Torvill and Dean turned in a perfect performance, and a perfect score, in ice dancing, and Yugoslavia had their first Olympic medal ever when Jure Franko won silver in the giant slalom event.
There was also a new event added at the Sarajevo Olympics; a 20 km Nordic ski race for women.
1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul
South Korea hosted the games, which were only the second Summer Olympics to be held in Asia. One hundred and sixty nations participated, even after North Korea and four of its allies boycotted the games.
Track star Florence Griffith Joyner, aka Flo-Jo, set an Olympic record in the 100 m and a world record in the 200 m – which has yet to be beaten.
There was a controversy in boxing, when American Roy Jones Jr. lost to South Korea’s Park Si-Hun. Rumors of a fix started spreading, and the three judges that ruled in favor of Si-Hun were ultimately suspended.
There was also good news of good deeds: a Canadian sailor, Lawrence Lemieux was about to win silver when he stopped to save a competitor who was injured. He got a nod from the IOC for both his bravery and sacrifice.
1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary
The last Olympics of the decade saw five new nations competing for the first time, as well as a new event called the Super-G.
This was also the Olympics of the Jamaican Bobsled team, which delighted the media, as well as Disney, who turned their story into a movie ‘Cool Runnings’ in 1993.
Some big names during the games were Alberto Tomba, an Italian skier, Yvonne van Gennip, a Dutch speed skater, and newcomers Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov of the Soviet Union.
American Brian Boitano and Canadian Brian Orser, both of men’s figure skating, were two more big names, and the competition between these great athletes was referred to as the ‘Battle of the Brians.’
With so many events covered by the Olympics between the summer and winter games, everyone has at least a couple of favorites. Throughout the decade, every 1980s Olympics held brought new names, nations, and events, keeping the world glued to the television.