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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Rio 2016: Boycotts and bans – a look back at countries who pulled out previously

Banning Russia wholesale from competing at the Olympic Games would have been a momentous decision, but it would not have been the first time the Summer Games have been hit by the absence of a major nation.
The Olympics rings are seen on a fence in front of the Russian Olympic Committee building in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 24, 2016. The IOC has decided against a complete ban on Russian athletes from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Pavel Golovkin / AP Photo
The Olympics rings are seen on a fence in front of the Russian Olympic Committee building in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 24, 2016. The IOC has decided against a complete ban on Russian athletes from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Pavel Golovkin / AP Photo

Banning Russia wholesale from competing at the Olympic Games would have been a momentous decision – Russia, and the former Soviet Union as it was, is among the leading Olympic nations in terms of medals. But it would not have been the first time the Summer Games have been hit by the absence of a major nation.

Melbourne 1956

Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq pulled out from the Games in protest at the presence of British, French and Israeli athletes. This was in response to the Suez Crisis. The presence of the Soviet Union also led to boycotts by Spain, Netherlands and Switzerland. They were protesting the involvement of the Soviet Union in the ending of the Hungarian revolution. China also pulled out late because of the presence of Taiwan as a competing country.

Tokyo 1964

The IOC has not always been unafraid to make big calls. In 1964 it withdrew its invitation to South Africa because the government refused to condemn its apartheid policies. The South African delegation of 62 athletes included seven non-whites, but the IOC felt that did not go far enough, instead demanding that South Africa publicly renounce all forms of racial discrimination. It did not happen and South Africa did not return to the Games until the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Montreal 1976

South Africa was still barred but the stench of apartheid refused to leave the Games. In protest at the presence of New Zealand, whose rugby union team were at the time touring South Africa, 25 African countries pulled out of the Olympics. These included Libya, Iraq, Kenya, Algeria and Nigeria, among others. Several of the countries had already travelled to Montreal, only to return home before the opening ceremony.

Moscow 1980 & Los Angeles 1984

The highest-profile boycotts the Games have ever suffered, with the US boycotting the first and the Soviet Union reciprocating four years later. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 upped the ante in the Cold War, leading to the US, West Germany, Japan, China and Canada to boycott the 1980 Games entirely. Other countries, such as the UK, left it to their athletes to decide whether or not to travel. Four years later, the Soviet decision to not go to LA was copied by 14 of its Eastern Bloc allies of the time, including East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

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