Carter's boycott means Olympics is a pawn in the Cold War with the Soviet Union

A United States led-boycott over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan ruined the 1980 Moscow Games and threw the future of the whole Olympic movement into doubt.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 27, 1979, and a few days later, US President Jimmy Carter condemned what he called a "callous" violation of international law.

On January 20, Carter sent the United States Olympic Committee a letter urging it to propose to the International Olympic Committee that unless the Soviets withdrew within a month, the Games be postponed, cancelled or moved, perhaps to Greece, site of the ancient Olympics and the first modern Games.

By the end of the month, both houses of the US Congress had passed resolutions of support for the president's position. In February, then-IOC president Lord Killanin of Ireland said all 73 IOC members had voted unanimously to affirm that the Games "must be held in Moscow as planned."

Two days later, the USOC announced it would accept whatever decision President Carter made. In March, Carter invited a group of would-be Olympic athletes to the White House and told them America would not be sending a team. Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, issued a plea for the US team to travel to Moscow but was ignored.

The British government supported the boycott but the British Olympic Association voted to go - leading to a 1500 metres victory by Sebastian Coe over team-mate Steve Ovett, who days before had beaten Coe in the 800 metres.

The event captivated the attention of the world as it was the first time the two great British middle-distance runners, who had bestrode the athletics stage like two colossus, had met at this level. The Olympics were generally a good experience for Britain with Allan Wells winning the 100m - the first Briton to win the event since Harold Abrahams in 1924 - and Daley Thompson the decathlon.

In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser backed the boycott, but the Australian Olympic Committee voted to go. The team went, but a number of athletes and coaches stayed home. West Germany and Canada opted out of the Games. France and Italy were in.

When the Games opened to a ceremony that featured elaborate card stunts in the stands, performed by a block of 5,000 Red Army gymnasts, 65 nations stayed away. But 80 sent at least partial teams, the lowest since Melbourne in 1956.

"People have realized that boycotts are not helpful," said Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC. "To the contrary - people who call for a boycott are shooting their own foot."

In the opening ceremony, the Belgians entered behind the Olympic flag, not the national colours, and Rogge, the team leader, did not march. Other nations, including Britain, took a similar stance and refused to allow their national anthem to be played during medal ceremonies.

Date Games held: July 19-August 3

Number of nations represented: 80

Number of competitors: 5,217 (1,124 women)

Number of medal events: 203