The 1980 Summer Olympics boycott was one part of a number of actions initiated by the United States to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union, which hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics, and other countries would later boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Western governments first considered the idea of boycotting the Moscow Olympics in response to the situation in Afghanistan at the 20 December 1979 meeting of NATO representatives, a fortnight after the invasion of Afghanistan. The idea was not completely new: since 1975/1976 proposals for an Olympic boycott circulated widely among human rights activists and groups as a sanction for Soviet violations of human rights. At that moment, not many of the member governments were interested in the proposal. The idea began to gain popularity in early January 1980 when Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov called for a boycott. On 14 January 1980, the Carter Administration joined Sakharov's appeal and set a deadline by which the Soviet Union must pull out of Afghanistan or face the consequences, including an international boycott of the games. On 26 January 1980, Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark announced that Canada, like the US, would boycott the Olympic Games if Soviet forces did not leave Afghanistan by 20 February 1980.
In late January the Soviet regime prepared to face down this "hostile campaign". As Central Committee documents show, in addition to its own propaganda efforts it was relying on the International Olympic Committee and its 89 member committees to behave as in the past (e.g. after Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968), and not give in to pressure from national governments. It noted that the government and National Olympic Committee of France had already stated a willingness to participate.
After its 24 April meeting, the head of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Robert Kane told the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the USOC would be willing to send a team to Moscow if there were a "spectacular change in the international situation" in the coming weeks.
In an attempt to save the Games Lord Killanin, then president of the IOC, arranged to meet and discuss the boycott with Jimmy Carter and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, before the new 24 May deadline. Killanin insisted that the Games should continue as scheduled, while President Carter reaffirmed the US position. viz. to boycott the Games unless the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan.
Several interventions at the late April 1980 Bilderberg meeting in Aachen included discussion of the implications of the boycott. The world would perceive a boycott, it was argued, as little more than a sentimental protest, not a strategic act. An African representative at the Bilderberg meeting voiced a different view: whether there was additional support outside the US or not, he believed, a boycott would be an effective symbolic protest and be dramatically visible to those within the Soviet Union. Some Russian dissidents expressed an opinion that boycott would be a strong message to the Soviets who breached the Olympic rules to achieve their political goals. The Carter administration brought considerable pressure to bear on other NATO Member-States to support the boycott. Their support was not universal.