chapter  2
14 Pages

Sustaining Identities: Hong Kong and the Politics of an Olympic Boycott

ByBrian Bridges

In 1980, the Olympic movement faced one of its greatest challenges – the threat of a widespread boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics. There had been partial boycotts before, not least at the 1976 Montreal Olympics when some African states refused to send athletes because of South Africa’s apartheid policies, but the Moscow Olympics were to be the subject of much greater tension and controversy. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 provoked a serious crisis in cold war politics and the call by the US President Jimmy Carter for as many states as possible to boycott the Olympics pushed many states – and their Olympic committees – into a dilemma. How was this issue dealt with in Hong Kong, a British territory, but one which was just becoming the subject of tortuous negotiations between Britain and the People’s Republic of China (PRC)? The Hong Kong Olympic Committee initially resisted calls for joining the international boycott, hoping to be able to send athletes, but as Olympic ideals came up against political realities, it was forced to concede. While clearly not a major player in Olympic sporting history, Hong Kong nonetheless typified the fate of many smaller states and their Olympic committees, who were caught between domestic aspirations and external great power influences, and who struggled to sustain their own sporting identity – and independent policy – within the Olympic movement.