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2010-09-05 11:41 - 1980 Moscow Olympic Team Gathering Friday 3rd Sept. 2010
Posted by Brillmartmore from same (Olympics)
OlympicsFor the first time the 99 athletes who were selected to represent New Zealand at the 1980 Olympic Games were honoured in Wellington.

While only four athletes went on to compete at the Moscow games, the full team which  includes fencer Martin Brill (Individual Epee) were acknowledged for their achievements and the contributions they have made to New Zealand sport.

The political pressure and personal intimidation to withdraw and boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics led the fencing association to withdraw Martin, less than 12 hours after his return from three weeks of pre-olympic training and competition. "I heard of my withdrawal on the six o'clock news. No one from the Association told me".

The reunion, organised by the Olympians Club of New Zealand, was attended by more than 50 of the athletes originally selected.

Representing our Association at the function was Ken Claridge (President) who said "The personal stories were moving and the opportunity to acknowledge has been overdue. It was a wonderful occasion".

The event coincided with the opening of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Exhibition at the New Zealand Olympic Museum,  TSB Bank Arena, 4 Queens Wharf, Wellington.

The audio visual and displays include a beige brown 1980 Moscow blazer shirt and tie provided by Martin Brill, with "Fencing" on the blazer pocket. The display is worth a visit to learn about the interesting period and events surrounding the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. Entry to museum is free.

For more on this story click here Thanks to NZOC media release for details.
1980 Moscow Team Reunion - Continued:
Representatives at the gathering from the team that went to the 1980 Olympics, were Chef de Mission Tay Wilson, modern pentathlete Brian Newth and official Graeme Campbell.

"The effects of the 1980 boycott have been long-lasting for many athletes and we think that thirty years on it is time they were recognised," said New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) secretary general Barry Maister, who was selected for the original Moscow team.

The Moscow games was the largest boycott in Olympic history. More than 60 nations refused to compete in an American-led protest against the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. As a result, only 81 countries participated.

The New Zealand Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (NZOCGA, today known as the NZOC) initially voted to accept the Soviet Union's invitation to attend the Games.

Several sporting federations withdrew, some in protest at Russian intervention in Afghanistan and others because of a lack of competition.

Government pressure mounted, with athletes called upon to put their own ambitions aside in favour of the national interest.

In June 1980, the NZOCGA agreed that the decision to accept the invitation to attend the games would be rescinded and that the association would withdraw from the Olympics.

Intimidation of athletes was reported. Swimmer Rebecca Perrott withdrew "in the best interests of New Zealand", while her father noted his daughter had been under pressure.

A team of just four athletes and four officials remained. Led by Tay Wilson, the team included Ian Ferguson, Alan Thompson, Geoff Walker and Brian Newth.

Public pressure was strong at the time and Newth reported receiving abusive letters and phone calls including a letter written in blood.

A Fencer's Personal Experience: Martin Brill
"It was a great feeling to have been selected to attend the 1980 Olympics. It followed on from my 1979 World Championship NZ Team all round best performance, and winning the NZ National Championships in Epee. To hear on the six o'clock news of my withdrawal was a shock".

"A week or so later afterwards I received a brown paper package in the mail. Against police advice I opened it and found a team uniform. It might as well have been a bomb".

"I did wear it once, to the AGM of the national Assocaition and I sat in the front row. No comment or reference was made to the 1980 Olympic Games".

"The Cycling Team mechanic received a similar package and called the police. They detonated it at the bottom of the garden. The largest piece found was a small burned part of a blazer pocket".

"I withdrew from fencing for a while, did a Scuba Diving course and went to Fiji. To prove myself I fenced at the National Championships and won again. I came back to the sport I love, but 1980 is still a very sad place to go".

"I think we should also acknowledge the people who had courage and fought for participation at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, for example fencing representative on NZOC Richard Peterson and Bill Garlick from Canoeing. Their stance has been entirely vindicated and for the future we should remember the lesson and keep the politics out of sport and keep sport for all".

1980 Moscow Olympic Games, A Brief History:
The 1980 Moscow Games reflected a turbulent time where international sport and politics collided.

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Christmas Eve in 1979, United States President Jimmy Carter boycotted the Moscow Olympic Games that were scheduled for the following July. Pressure mounted around the world for Western nations to follow suit.

In New Zealand the issue reached epic proportions and touched public, private and sporting sectors alike. On 8 May 1980, the New Zealand Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (NZOCGA, today known as the NZOC) met and voted to accept the Soviet Union’s invitation to attend the Games. Soon after the New Zealand Cabinet reached a decision that had devastating effects on the New Zealand team.

Cabinet had agreed that the games team would be considered divorced from the New Zealand Embassy in Moscow, that payments to the NZOCGA would be reconsidered and that no special leave to attend the games for public servants would be granted.

Meanwhile public opinion against the games mounted and sporting federations began to withdraw. Reasons varied; Equestrian cited protest at Russian intervention in Afghanistan, Hockey because of lack of competition, Rowing as lack of annual leave made attendance impossible.

The decisions were not clear cut. Sailors wrote to their Federation protesting against the decision to withdraw and the New Zealand Amateur Cycling Association President, Bill Main, expressed concern that “amateur sportsmen were bearing the brunt of the attitudes and feelings towards to Russians over their invasion of Afghanistan.”

While the NZOCGA continued to deliberate, government pressure mounted. President Carter wrote to New Zealand’s then Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, asking New Zealand take further steps to get athletes to not attend the games. Muldoon called the issue of attendance ‘a matter of high government policy’. Minister of Recreation and Sport Alan Highet called on athletes to ‘think beyond [their] own hopes and ambitions…any athletes who did go to the Olympic Games would be letting New Zealand down.”

On the 29th of May the NZOCGA decided that no sponsor or government funds would be used to send a team to the Olympic Games and finally on the fourth of June the NZOCGA agreed that the decision to accept the invitation to attend the games would be rescinded and that the association would withdraw from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

“Clearly it’s not much of an investment for sponsors,” quipped Muldoon at the news.

Intimidation of athletes was reported. The Chairman of the Athletics Assocciation Ces Blazey authorised the withdrawal of the athletics team but Association Secretary Mr I Boyd said the association remained firmly opposed to the boycott. “But because of intimidation of competitors, which is affecting their preparations for the games, the reduction in the size of the New Zealand team and the long term financial implications to the organisation of athletics in New Zealand if the team goes to Moscow, the NZAAA has decided very reluctantly to withdraw its section from the Olympics team,” he said. Swimmer Rebecca Perrott withdrew ‘in the best interests of New Zealand’ while her father noted his daughter had been under pressure.

The New Zealand Rowing Association was also opposed to the boycott but nonetheless withdrew its team. “New Zealand Rowing firmly believes that the Olympic boycott is a wrong method of settling a political dispute and adheres to the firm belief that participation that participation in the Olympics would do far more good for the peace of the world than the steps that have been forced upon them,” they said in a statement. Muldoon conversely believed athletes would, in time, “put things into perspective.”

A team of just four athletes and four officials remained. Led by Sir Tay Wilson, the original Chef de Mission, the team included Ian Ferguson, Alan Thompson, Geoff Walker and Brian Newth. Public pressure was strong and Newth reported receiving abusive letters and phone calls including a letter written in blood.

On 19 July 1980 five members of the team walked into the Olympiyskiy behind a black flag with white rings and fern (NZOCGA logo). The New Zealand flag did not fly at Moscow.

Athletes: Ian Ferguson (K1 500, K1 1000), Alan Thompson (K2 500, K2 1000), Geoff Walker (K2 500, K 2 1000), Brian Newth (Modern Pentathlon).

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