chapter  2
Filling the Information Gap: Radio Free Europe–Radio Liberty and the Politics of Accreditation at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games
ByToby C. Rider
Pages 16

On May 8, 1984, the Soviet Union announced that it would not be sending a team to the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. Shortly thereafter, the USSR’s East European client states, under pressure from the Kremlin, made the same decision, with the lone exception of Romania.1 As a result of these actions, audiences in the Soviet bloc had few options when it came to accessing news about the Games of the XXIII Olympiad. The communist media provided only limited coverage of the sporting events, and much of the coverage it did provide mercilessly critiqued the Olympic city. One Soviet newspaper commented that without the athletes from the boycotting nations the competitions were ‘senseless’. Radio Moscow argued that the United States was merely using the Games ‘for kindling nationalistic sentiments and for advocating the notorious American way of life’. The Soviet news agency, Tass, stated that the Olympics were ‘a wild debauchery of commercialism’. Yet just yards away from where Tass correspondents relayed their stories, journalists from Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) were sending over 20 live reports a day in seven languages to listeners behind the Iron Curtain. Thomas C. Bodin, the Radios’ director of news, told the Los Angeles Times that the media in the Soviet bloc had been covering ‘nothing at all, or hugely slanted reports’ about the Olympics. RFE and RL, he said, were ‘trying to fill an information gap’ by broadcasting the events as ‘accurately as possible’.2