Moscow 1980 and the Puerto Rican Olympic delegation

1980 Moscow Olympic Games Poster

1980 Moscow Olympic Games Poster

Sometimes, sports and politics do get tangled into complicated international situations. For example, during the cold war, United States President Jimmy Carter, with the support of the United States Olympic Committee, proposed a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow (1980) if the Soviet Union didn’t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

As you may know, Puerto Rico coordinates -since London 1948-  its own Olympic delegation, and it participates as an independent nation in international competitions, the same as those of other U.S. territories such as Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also, Puerto Rican athletes have the option of competing in the Olympic Games representing either Puerto Rico or the United States.

So, when the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics, the US also pressured Puerto Rico not to attend the event and denied any type of financial aid. The President of the Puerto Rican international committee, Germán Rieckehoff Sampayo, expressed a strong position by stating that sports shouldn’t be mixed with politics and, despite economic hardship, Rieckehoff managed to send on three boxers to the Moscow Olympics: Alberto Mercado, Luis Pizarro, and José Ángel Molina. They were the only citizens of the United States who participated in the 1980 Olympic Games, or at least, the only US citizens holding only one citizenship. Of course, there were some other American-born athletes who did compete in Moscow but that’s because they were citizens of other countries, such as Italy and Australia.

Two years later, in 1982, the Puerto Rican government again restricted economic support for the national team to participate in the Central American and Caribbean Games to be held in Havana,  Cuba. Since the US doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Cuba, the boricua team was dissuaded from attending the games because they were taking place in a communist country. Once again, Rieckehoff came up with the strategy of asking people directly to provide donations for this event. This time, he was able to send the entire team to these international games. The Puerto Rican delegation won a total of 104 medals at the event (7 gold, 43 silver, 54 bronze).

Find out more:  

“ – 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott.” Accessed July 5, 2013. 
Galván, Javier A. Culture and Customs of Puerto Rico. Culture and Customs of Latin America and the Caribbean. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2009. 
“1982 Central American and Caribbean Games.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, July 5, 2013. 
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