THE 5 RING CIRCUS – THE ’80s

A huge obstacle to doing a post a day for 31 days is when one gets done with the post one realizes how lame the post is.  That was my experience with my first post about my Olympic memories of the 1980’s.  Flat, dull, uninspired and did I mention flat and dull?  So click the marker and shout “Poole’s fondest memories of the Olympics, take two!  And roll it!”

Summer 1980 – Moscow.  The United States did not participate in these games.  Because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter boycotted the games.  The boycott did nothing to change the situation in Afghanistan, but it did deny our athletes the chance to compete in the Olympics that year.  Some were able to compete in 1984, but for some this was their only shot.  I know one person who had qualified to go.  He is still disappointed.

Summer 1984 – Los Angeles.  This time the Soviet Union, Cuba, East Germany and 10 other Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the Olympics. On the other hand, China was making its first appearance in the Olympics since 1972.  The Olympics also had a new theme song; “The Olympic Fanfare and Theme” by John Williams.  Carl Lewis earned 4 gold medals, equaling the 4 golds that Jesse Owens won in 1936 when he was showing Adolf Hitler that the master race wasn’t so master.  Mary Lou Retton won the women’s gymnastics all-around title, the first time it was won by someone not from Eastern Europe. She later went on to play Tiny Tim in the movie “Scrooged”.

In addition to the boycott, the game had another controversial incident.  Zola Budd was a record-setting distance runner from South Africa who trained and raced barefoot.  Because of South Africa’s apartheid policies, South Africa was not eligible to participate in international competition.  Zola Budd got fast tracked to being granted British citizenship and qualified to run for Great Britain. The race between Zola and American champion Mary Decker in the 3,000 meter run was highly publicized.  The barefoot 17-year-old racing against America’s favorite distance runner.  During the race, Zola tripped up Decker.  Decker fell to the infield, injuring herself and unable to get back into the race.  Budd fell back and finished 7th.   Anyone who saw that race remembers the fall and the images of Mary Decker laying on the ground, crying in pain and rage.

The team that won the hearts of the viewing audience was the women’s volleyball team.  Led by 5’3″ Debbie Green and 6’5″ Flo Hyman.  The ladies earned a silver medal, the highest they had ever placed in the Olympics.  Debbie Green and Flo Hyman are considered to among the top American volleyball players of all time.  Debbie Green is in the US Volleyball Association Hall of Fame.  Sadly, while playing professional volleyball in Japan, Flo Hyman collapsed and died during a game from Marfan syndrome in 1986 at the age of 32.

1988 Winter – Calgary.  I will admit to not being a huge Winter Olympics watcher, so other than the “Miracle on Ice” and Franz Klammer’s run, I haven’t got many stand out memories.  But I will always remember that these were the Olympics that featured Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, Britain’s ski jump entry, and the Jamaican bobsled team.  To me and many others, these athletes represented that ideal of trying one’s best, in spite of the odds.  Nobody expected them to win or place or even show, but people understood that the athletes, regardless of where they placed, were going to give it their best, give it their all, in the true spirit the Olympics.

1988 Summer – Seoul.  In the early summer, the wife and I went to Disneyland.  The United States Olympic team was there as well for a publicity photo shoot.  It was fun watching them give autographs and interact with the families.  I appreciated them being there, but we didn’t tarry long as it was time to hit Space Mountain for the first time ever.  In the actual games .Gregg Louganis won 2 golds, in spite of cracking his head open on the diving platform.  In another Olympic controversy, Ben Johnson won the gold in the 100 meters only to be later stripped of the medal because he failed the drug test.

The most electrifying performances came from track and field’s Florence Griffith Joyner, or Flo Jo for short.  She designed her own track uniforms and suffice it to say, they were like none other.  And her performance backed up the flamboyant costumes.  She garnered 1 silver and 3 golds.  She retired from competition immediately after the Olympics.  Later on in life, she got to thinking about making a comeback.  Tragically, she passed away in her sleep from an epileptic seizure at the age of 38.  Another Olympian struck down in her prime,

Finally this, to be filed under “Good Ideas That Fail Miserably”, in an effort to symbolize world peace, the Olympics release several doves as part of the opening ceremony.  Unfortunately, when the Olympic flame was lit, several of the doves got torched.  That pretty much ended the practice of releasing birds at the Olympic ceremonies.

Next up:  Olympic memories of the “90’s

 

1988

Coaching football and getting ready to audition for the part of the coach in “Cool Runnings”  John Candy get the part.

The musical muse for this post: Various Olympic fanfares performed by John Williams and the Boston Pops.

 

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