A GUIDEPOST REPRINT: “Spain Goes to the Olympics with High Hopes but no Flag,” 18 July 1980

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Moscow Olympics mascot, Misha,  sheds a tear at the closing ceremony in Central Lenin
Stadium. Also in photo: bearers of national flags and Olympic flags. To
the left, Spanish Olympic Committee logo


“Spain Goes to the Olympics
Spanish Olympic Team has high hopes, but no flag

  by Donald O’ Toole
First published in GUIDEPOST
18 July 1980

Spanish athletes won’t be competing under the Spanish flag but they have high hopes of winning more medals at this Olympics if only they’re not dispirited by lack of competition due to the boycott

On July 19th, 163 Spanish athletes will file into Moscow’s Lenin Stadium to take part in the inaugural ceremony of the 22nd modern olympiad. It may be difficult for spectators to spot the Spanish athletes.  They will not carry the Spanish flag, instead they will carry a white banner with the yellow, blue, green, black and red circles of the Olympic symbol. In a corner of the flag, the insignia of the Spanish Olympic Committee will be inconspicuously placed. In the event that a Spaniard wins a medal he will not stand to Spain’s Royal March but the Olympic hymn.

This lack of national symbols will be common at Moscow as the American-led boycott of the summer games has made it impossible for a number of countries to use their national flag, anthem or anything else that might be construed as symbolizing official government support of participation at the games.

The boycott has caused problems for countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal, England, Belgium, Holland and other nations which have decided to send “unofficial” teams to Moscow. In addition to the practical problems of being a national champion who is unable to show his national identity, there is the problem of just what the games are worth. For the absence of the 66 boycotting nations will make it difficult to claim that a gold medal at Moscow signifies a world champion.

The controversial gold medal won by Latvian javelin thrower Dainis Kula. Could a gold-medal-win mean that the athlete was the world’s best in his/her category, in a competition with limited participation?

A significant number of the countries who will be absent at Moscow have been dominant forces in past Olympics. Without athletes from the US, Canada, West Germany, Japan and others, the quality of the competition will surely change. Of the 557 medals that were awarded at the 1976 Olympics at Montreal, almost 200 were won by athletes from nations who will be absent this summer.

The lack of boycotting competitors will surely water down the heat of the competition at Moscow. Consequently, some athletes may decide to miss the games because of this lack of competition. National Olympic Committees, who commonly have to fight for the funds necessary to attend the Olympics, will in some cases be hard-pressed to justify the cost of traveling to Moscow.

Jesus Hermida, president of the  Spanish Olympics Committee: high hopes and down-to-earth expectations

Jesús Hermida, president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, described the difficulties faced by teams who are sizing up the competition at Moscow. “It’s not the same situation for the Spanish handball team as it is for the hockey team,” explained Hermida. “All of the powers of handball, generally socialist countries, will be at the games. The competition in this event will not change. But that’s not the case with hockey, where Pakistan, West Germany and Argentina will not be present. There the inducement to play will be reduced considerably.”

Without the presence of the boycotting nations, experts calculate that the Soviets and Esat Germany should be able to win at least 50 percent of the medals at Moscow. That estimate may in fact be conservative since the Soviets and East Germany were close to winning 50 percent of the medals at Montreal. In 1976, the Soviets won 125 and East Germany 89 for a total of 214 medals of the 557 awarded. In contrast, Spain won two medals at Montreal. They were both silver; one was in the four-man, 1000 meter kayak event and the other in the 470 class yachting competition.

Despite the absence of the boycotting nations, many, including Spain, think the games will be worth the trouble

The Soviets have already responded to their expected success at the Games. According to the recently revised Party Activist’s Manual, the Soviet triumph at the summer games will reinforce “the universal recognition of the historical importance and honest behavior of our country’s foreign policy, the Soviet Union’s vast contributions to the fight for peace, the international Olympic movement and to the promotion of physical culture and sport.”

The Russians haven’t spared any expense during their preparation for the summer games. They have spent more than $2 billion on Olympic stadiums, housing and routes of transportation. They have built 18 buildings with 16 floors each to house athletes. The municipality of Moscow has constructed 36 hotels, five motels and five camping grounds to accommodate spectators. More than 10,000 interpreters, 6,000 waiters and 10,000 chauffeurs are prepared to facilitate the visitor’s stay in Moscow. According to Lord Killanin, the president of the International Olympic Committee, “It is the best Olympic Village in the history of the Games.”

Still, one has to ask if all of this costly preparation is worth the bother. Apparently, despite the lack of the boycotting nations, many nations think the games will be worth the trouble. Many countries, including Spain, are anxious to compete at Moscow.

For the Spanish, the Moscow Olympiad may present an opportunity to take some gold medals. In basketball, the absence of the American team has brightened Spain’s prospects considerably. Experts expect the Spanish team to place fifth and sixth, but, as past Olympics have proven, anything can happen.

Spain set its sights on the Gold at Track and Field but competition was stiff. Still, Jorge Llopart,  seen here at the finish line, Lenin Stadium, won silver at the men’s 50-km race walk. All  in all, Spain would win 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze

In track and field, Spain will send its largest team ever with 21 athletes. Unfortunately, the large turn-out may not be enough for a gold medal since three perennial favorites — Russia, Esat Germany and Mexico — will compete at Moscow.

The Spaniards expect to win a medal in field hockey, Spain has always been a steady contender in this event, at the 1960 Olympics in Rome the Spaniards won a bronze medal, and this year, without Pakistan and West Germany, Spain should easily place in the top three.

In judo, Spain’s two representatives-one at light-heavyweight and the other at middleweight-will be aided by the absence of the Japanese team. Spain will not have equal luck in wrestling since the Russians, Bulgarians and Romanians traditionally dominate the event. Still, Spain will send two wrestlers to Moscow: one in the 100-kilo freestyle division and the other at 48 kilos in the Greco-Roman classification.

Spain’s presence in the archery competition is traditional; in the 1920 Olympics at Paris, Spain won its first medal. This year, Spain will be represented by two archers.

In swimming, the Spaniards have very good chances of success. Two Spanish swimmers, David Lopez Zubero and Rafael Escalas are ranked among the top ten swimmers n the world. Lopez, who swims the 100 and 200 freestroke and the 100 butterfly is ranked with the top five swimmers in the world. Escalas, who swims the 400 and 1500 meter freestroke is ranked around tenth.

The absence of the Americans should help the Spaniards since the US won 39 medals in swimming and diving at Montreal.

Olympics marathon in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral: “The Summer Games at Moscow may not live up to what we have come to expect from the Olympics”

Although Spain won silver medals in the four-man kayak competition and in the 470 class yachting event at Montreal, experts are hesitant to predict the Spaniards’ possibilities for success at Moscow. None of the winning competitors at Montreal will return to compete in the Soviet Union so it is anyone’s guess how the Spaniards will do.

In all, the Summer Games at Moscow may not live up to what we have come to expect from the Olympics but still the political entanglements combined with the hope the games will give to traditional underdogs should make the competition interesting.

Related post (must read): “The Olympic Boycott, 1980”




>Featured image: Guidepost montage. A teary Misha at closing ceremony, Central Lenin Stadium, and flag bearers of nation-participants in the Olympic Games Moscow 1980/Sergey Guneev / Сергей Гунеев. File derived from RIAN archive 488322 . Cropped.jpg. CC BY-SA3.0. Spanish Olympic Committe logo(Spanish Olympic Committee, PD
>Spanish flag/Nathan Hughes Hamilton, CC BY2.0
>Moscow Olympics 1980 emblem/Yuriy Somov / Юрий Сомов – RIA Novosti archive, Fair use
>Gold medal/Edgars Kosovojs, CC BY-SA3.0, cropped
>Jesus Hermida/IMSERSO, www.imserso.es, CC BY via Wikipedia
>Jorge Llopart/RIA Novosti archive/Yuriy Somov, CC BY-SA3.0
>Marathon/Frotscher, Heinz Dr, Bundesachiv, CC BY-SA3.0 via Wikipedia