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LuigiVercotti

An Alternate History of the Olympics: 1980

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1980: St Petrograd

After the failed bid for the 1976 Summer Olympics the Menshevik Russian government (under the leadership of recently elected Russian Premier Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) immediately began planning its campaign for the vote to be held at the 75th IOC Session to be held in the Austro-Hungarian metropolis Vienna in October 1974. In the intervening years the International Olympic Committee found itself in the rather unique situation of having to vet over 20 candidate cities (thanks to the success of the Montreal 1972 SOGs as well as the commitment by IOC president Louis Mountbatten to allow professional athletes to compete at all games from 1980), leading to the vote coming down to St Petrograd, the capital of the Coptic Christian Republic of Persia, Tabriz and 1968 runner up Mexico City. The Mexicans were unable to shake off the influence of their previously disgraced consultant Juan Antonio Samaranch. It was reported to the IOC executive committee on the eve of the vote that Samaranch had personally offered any and every IOC member who voted for Mexico that the German sports footwear maker Dasidad would contribute 30,000 Bundesmarks into each of the voters bank accounts. As the Mexicans were forced to leave Vienna Interpol were asked by the IOC to locate and if possible arrest the corrupt consultant, who was able to escape police pursuit, claiming political asylum in the Maoist Republic of Formosa. Whilst Tabriz had the support of several major powerbrokers in the IOC (including his holiness Pope Selaissie II and the grande dame of Australian swimming Fanny Durack) the final vote was St Petrograd 39 Tabriz 20.

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St Petrograd Olympic Poster

Seizing upon the opportunity to promote the political system of Menshevik Russia the President commissioned a 6 year plan to improve the standings of his country's athletes, including the construction of the massive new Olympic Stadium in Petrograd (the Kirov...pictured below) and more controversially the institution of a systemic use of biodegradable hormone therapy for MSSR Olympic athletes.

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Solzhenitsyn signing the order to begin construction of the Kirov Stadium

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Political prisoners and so-called 'guest workers' labouring on the Kirov Stadium construction

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The Kirov Stadium prior to final 1980 Olympic fit-out, August 1979

Between the election of St Petrograd and the actual hosting of the games a spirit of detente between the two superpowers of Menshevik Russia and the US engendered much hope for world peace. A year before the games were to begin Solzhenitsyn died, and was replaced by radical Politburo member Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin, a believer in aggressive capitalism and Russian pan-nationalism almost immediately changed the dynamic between his government and the rest of the world. The IOC under its newly re-elected president Jesse Owens could do little as bit by bit during the year leading into the 1980 St Petrograd Games Yeltsin appeared to put every western country offside. Sticking to its political neutrality and its mantra that the Olympics were above politics, the IOC was in for a rude awakening when on December 31st 1979 Yeltsin himself lead an invasion of the Grand Duchy of Chechnya:

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Menshevik President Yeltsin congratulating a tank crew on its mission to capture the Imperial Palace in Grozny

Stung by this rebuke to the west NATO and its allies (under the combative leadership of US President Walter Mondale) immediately began talk of a boycott of the St Petrograd Olympics. It was as if Berlin 1936 was happening again and once more the IOC would see the Olympic movement ripped apart by political issues it had no control over.

However in what was possibly the greatest moment of Olympic diplomacy the IOC president Jesse Owens flew to St Petrograd, Grozny, Washington and the Vatican in a furious bout of shuttle diplomacy. His cajoling, pleading and amazing negotiation skills not only pulled off an unexpected reversal of the boycott talks and even led to yeltsin withdrawing his troops from Chechnya.

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Owens talking to a delegation of Menshevik Russian NOC staff and St Petrograd Organising Committee members, January 1980

So by the time the St Petrograd Summer Olympics opened on July 19th 1980 the tensions between the MSSR and the west were significantly eased and if anything the amazing opening ceremony held in the Kirov Olympic stadium reflected the so-called 'St Petrograd Spring' of peace through sport:

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The Kirov Stadium during the opening ceremony

Perhaps the most heartwarming story of the games was the success of the St Petrograd 1980 mascot, Mascha the Bear. Mascha was seen everywhere, from parachuting out of Antonov transport planes to his own TV show 'Mascha: Glorious Russian bear at the Olympics'.

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Mascha the 1980 Mascot

When it came to the actual sport the hero for the Russians was Menshevik superfish Vladimir Salnikov. Swimming the 1500 metres at the Yuri Gagarin Pool Complex, he was the first Olympic gold medallist go sub 13 mins for the distance then to only three days later win a second gold in water polo. His final gold medal in skeet shooting saw him elevated to the status of 'Hero fo the Menshevik Sviet Socialist Republic' and given his own dacha on the outskirts of his home town Trotskygrad (later known as Stalingrod).

Other sporting stars were British decathlete Tom Daily and Russian sprinter Valeri Bolshey, whilst in the gymanstics hall it was again a battle between the Transylvanians led by Nadia Comanenci and the Russians led by ageing queen of the pommel vault, Olga Korbut. American success in the boxing ring was marred by a sit in staged by Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson when he was disqualifed by a Canadian judge for an illegal head butt on eventual heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. It took two days of negotiation and a raid by Russian Sptesnaz troops before the Cubans would leave the St Petrograd Olympic Boxing hall. Australian yachtsman John Bertrand and his crew members Alan Bond and Ben Lexcen won gold off Kronstadt Harbour in their winged keel Mistral class boat, whilst in field hockey the Rhodesian women's team won gold (being awarded when they got home a cow each from PM Ian Smith).

At the close of the games the ageing and revered President of the IOC Jesse Owens made a remarkable speech about how the St Petrograd Olympics had transcended political conflict and war, and that the Olympic movement was in a glorious new era. Unfortunately these hoepful words were dashed literally hours after the flame died in the Kirov Stadium, when the hero of 1940 suffered a massive brain embolism on his way to the airport, dying in the arms of his aide and VP, the youthful Canadian Richard Pound. The IOC would enter the last twenty years of the century under the saddest of circumstances.

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Richard Pound at the press conference announcing the passing of IOC President Jesse Owens

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Thanks for the positive feedback...must admit it's not the research that's the killer, it's trying to retain continuity. I'm hoping that once all SOGs (past and future) are covered I'll then come back and look at the OWGs. Then comes perhaps the opportunity to expand into a website or custom online publication :)

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Always fun to read them. Do you still have the whole series intact somewhere? It'd be a pity to lose them.

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Always fun to read them. Do you still have the whole series intact somewhere? It'd be a pity to lose them.

You can still find the posts up to and including this one in the archives but I haven't saved the content. Thanks for the reminder...I should do that.

By the way, you might wanna get excited Rols for the games after the next one. And if you have any links for a certain projected bid that didn't eventuate south of the Hunter River that I can use for illustrations etc that'd be much appreciated ;)

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Now, if you/we could only find a way to sneak those into the Vancouver Official Report???? :blink:

LOL...I think you'll find the Beijing Report is already written as alternate history. :P

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