Boycott Olympians get medals from Congress
Vail, CO Colorado
Date: 12/17/2007 06:52 PM
BC-OLY–1980 Olympians-Medals,1st Ld-Writethru/356
BC-OLY–1980 Olympians-Medals,1st Ld-Writethru, OLY
By EDDIE PELLS
BC-OLY–1980 Olympians-Medals, 1st Ld-Writethru,0367
DENVER, Colorado ” The 1980 U.S. Olympians who never had a chance to compete at the Moscow Games can finally say it: They are officially gold medalists.
But these aren’t Olympic medals. Rather, they’re Congressional Gold Medals that were awarded to the 461 Olympic athletes during the Carter administration but never officially recorded in the Congressional Record due to technical problems with the production of the medals.
“This is long overdue recognition for a group of Olympians who unfairly were denied the opportunity and honor of representing our country at the 1980 Games,” said U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel.
The United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics to protest the Soviet Union’s military operation in Afghanistan. The Congressional Record from that year shows Congress intended to award the Congressional Gold Medals to the Olympians to record the sacrifice they made ” having trained for games in which they would never compete.
The U.S. Mint produced the medals, but because they were expensive, financial constraints forced them to be gold-plated bronze medals instead of solid gold. Because of that difference, the Olympians were never officially documented as having received Congressional Gold Medals.
Encouraged by swimmer Ron Neugent, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., and USOC CEO Jim Scherr contacted the clerk of the House to point out the omission and get the record corrected.
They pointed out documentation from the 1980 session of Congress that showed it really was Congress’ intent to have the Olympians recorded as having received the Congressional Gold Medal.
The USOC announced the change Monday, and now, those 461 Olympians are on record as having received the highest civilian honor that can be bestowed by Congress. One of the first recipients of a Congressional Gold Medal ” George Washington, who got his on March 25, 1776.