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Daily Cover: Revisiting the 1984 Summer Olympics That Soviet Russia Tried to Thwart

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With this summer's Olympics on pause, let’s flashback to when the Soviets pretended to be white supremacists in order to sink the 1984 L.A. Games.

In 1984, the Olympics were already in peril, after the death of 11 Israeli athletes in 1972, bankrupting Montreal in 1976, and boycotting the Summer Olympics in Moscow in 1984, it was no surprise that the games could have been “dead” by the time the 1984 summer Olympics came.

The Soviet Union had announced that it would not participate in the 1984 Summer Olympics, yet that was hardly a surprise after 1980’s boycott. However, a letter that was supposedly sent from the KKK had been sent to various Olympic organizing committees in countries across Asia and Africa in early July 1984.

Despite the concern as the letters prompted, it was also a target for suspicion because it wasn’t consistent with the aims of the Ku Klux Klan. Also, the grammar and phrasing of the letters suggested the writer spoke a foreign language.

In the months after the U.S. announced its boycott, the Soviets attributed their nonparticipation to safety concerns, but The New York Times published a masthead editorial titled Olympic Sabotage, noting: “The Russians, and all the world, ought to be on notice that this was no mere spyland dirty trick against the United States.”

Photographs by Rich Clarkson/Sports Illustrated

Photographs by Rich Clarkson/Sports Illustrated

In the end, the L.A. Games could hardly have gone off more smoothly. The weather cooperated. With the capitalization of broadcasting rights and sponsorships, the Games earned a surplus exceeding $250 million, much of which went to the LA84 Foundation, a nonprofit—run by DeFrantz for 28 years—that funded youth sports throughout Southern California.