Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 16:25:31
25 September 2018

  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Then and Now

Author: Maria Antonova

Jan/Feb 2014
Page 40   ( 6 pages)

Summary: The 1980 Moscow Olympics was marred by scandal, worried about security, and touted as a showpiece for the nation's development. The more things change...


When, in the summer of 1980, Soviet Russia bade a tearful goodbye to its giant Misha mascot, which drifted away from Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium with a bunch of balloons, organizers must have breathed a sigh of relief.

The 1980 Olympic Games, the first ever held in the Communist bloc, were finally over. The thousands of foreign guests who had demanded unprecedented security in the capital city could now go home.

KGB operatives at the Moscow Olympics had to pose as cleaning personnel at hotels, foreigners were searched at the border, and postal employees did not let any parcels out of Moscow without examining their contents.

One story, never officially confirmed, purports that the internal affairs minister at the time summoned 20 of Moscow’s biggest crime bosses, the so-called “thieves in law” (vory v zakone) running the capital’s criminal underworld, to a meeting in the ministry’s headquarters. There he demanded that they “rule out any excesses during the Olympics.”*

Six thousand foreigners were put on a black list, labeled as dangerous, and not allowed to attend the games. Muscovites deemed mentally ill or having “delusional ideas” (many dissidents were thus classified) were to be kept away, “to prevent harsh, antisocial outbursts.”

Declassified documents inked in the months preceding the 1980 games show that security officials saw the Moscow Olympics as threatened by hostile forces that dreamed of staging acts of terror and upsetting the Soviet celebration of sport.

To read more, follow the "Purchase Back Issue" link from the full story listing for this issue.