Tuesday, 19 July 2016
448 The 1980 Summer Olympics
First viewed : July 1980
I must confess that by the time these Olympics came round the hype around the Coe-Ovett rivalry had had its effect on me and I was interested enough to actually tune in and watch athletics with some engagement. I didn't like Sebastian Coe who came across as a self-satisfied prig but there was something about Steve Ovett's bony face and that silly finger gesture at the end of a race that made me favour the former.
These Games held in Moscow, were dogged by political controversy with many nations choosing to boycott them over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, most notably Jimmy Carter's U.S.A. The absence of the Americans in particular threw a question mark over the authenticity of many of the medals gained.
In the event it was honours even between the two Brits. Ovett first beat Coe in his less favoured 800 metres and boldly stated he would not only win the 1500 metres but shave four seconds off the world record. Thus set up for a fall, Ovett came third as Coe won the race. A third Brit made the 800 metres final , a guy with a moustache called David Warren who confidently proclaimed that he would win the bronze. He came last.
Much more likable than either of them was the Scottish sprinter Allan Wells who won gold in the 100 metres final by a micrometre. His right to gold was more questioned than the others' but hey you've got to be in it to win it as they say. That race has become notable as the last 100 metres final to even feature a white runner let alone a winner.
The other main memory I have of the Games is the transformation in Romania's Nadia Comaneci from the half-starved waif at 14 in 1976 to 18-year old sexpot. She now had boobs and towered over her fellow competitors. Inevitably the change in her physical shape had its effect on her performances. She successfully defended two ( although one was shared with Russia's Nelly Kim ) of her three titles but was felt to have been the beneficiary of over-generous marking.
Nadia was the subject of many lurid rumours linking her to Nicu Ceaucescu, the playboy son of the Communist dictator who was said to have raped her and beaten her up on numerous occasions. In fact they scarcely knew each other and apart from a drinking problem that eventually killed him Nicu was actually a fairly decent guy in the circumstances. She defected to the USA just before the Romanian revolution , married a former US gymnast and became a naturalised American in 2001.