Boycotting the Olympics became an intriguing option for countries that had few, if any, chances to host the Games or win several gold. Also provided governments with the option to criticize the domestic or international policies of other states participating in the Olympic Movement, either by hosting or attending. The term was first used by South Africa when it decided to boycott the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
South Africa's decision was highly controversial and led to a decline in popularity for the Olympics. As an alternative, those games were replaced by a small regional event called Afro-Asian Games which was held in the country that year. South Africa did not withdraw its decision until after the event had taken place. At the time, many people believed that the boycott was unwise because it could have damaged Russia's economy even though South Africa only represented 1% of its total trade.
Since then, the word has been used repeatedly to protest various issues related to sports, most often concerning discrimination against black athletes. In 1992, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Japan from competing at the Olympics due to government-sponsored racism during World War II. Although the country had already qualified for the event by winning the 1990 Commonwealth Games, this ruling prevented them from winning more gold medals than silver ones.
In 2001, Canada announced it would not attend the following year's Winter Olympics in Germany because of Nazi atrocities against Jews during the war.
At a recent event, Susanne Lyons, chair of the board of directors of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, stated that her organization was opposed to "athlete boycotts because they've been proved to severely harm athletes while not successfully addressing global concerns." A boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow by the United States, as well as a number of other countries, caused significant damage to the Soviet economy and contributed to the collapse of the USSR's support for its athletes.
The US Olympic Committee first called for a boycott of the Moscow games in October 1979, just months before they were to begin. The US government had yet to announce its position on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which would occur one month after the initial call for a boycott was made. However, once it became clear that there would be no change in American policy toward Russia, the USOC dropped its opposition to the games.
Money is allocated to the US Olympic Committee by Congress each year. The amount budgeted by Congress varies depending on how many athletes qualify for the Games through international competitions such as World Championships and Continental Cups. For example, if no Americans win a medal at the 2012 London Olympics, then the USOC will have spent less than $10 million on those activities. But if several hundred thousand dollars' worth of medals are won, then funding would be closer to $50 million or more.
North Korea (which was still officially at war with the South) boycotted the Games after failing to be recognized as a co-host, with Cuba and Ethiopia joining them in sympathy. However, for the first time since 1972, there were no mass boycotts. It was an unusual Olympic Games in which there were no boycotts.
In April 2008, North Korea announced it would re-enter the Olympics following the death of Kim Jong-Il. However, on July 28, 2009, North Korea announced that it was withdrawing from the games due to "unprecedented attacks by south Korean puppets" and "the intolerable situation created by the south Korean authorities." The north's decision not to send a team to the games came as a surprise to many; they had been expected to participate at least in preliminary rounds.
In September 2010, a spokesman for North Korea's Olympic committee said their country was ready to resume talks with the south about participating in future games. In February 2011, a joint statement was issued by the governments of the north and south korea announcing their intention to restore official relations and begin working towards the normalization of bilateral ties. In April 2011, the two countries held their first high-level talks in more than a decade and agreed to work together to advance peace and prosperity on the peninsula. In August 2011, the two countries held further discussions in Beijing about allowing sports teams from each side to compete against one another in matches called "peace tournaments".