Major sporting events versus human rights: Parliament's position on the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina and the 1980 Moscow Olympics

13-06-2018

Major sports events and politics are closely intertwined. Well-known historical examples of major sporting events that were used by regimes for political propaganda purposes are the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina and the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. The 1978 World Cup took place around two years after the Argentinian military regime's right-wing coup and its violent repression of critics, and was then the most political World Cup in the history of the International Federation of Association Football (Fédération Internationale de Football Association: FIFA). The 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow were the first to take place in eastern Europe and the first to be held in a socialist country. In addition, the 1980 Summer Olympic Games unleashed a hitherto, in the history of major sporting events, unprecedented boycott by 60 countries, in protest against the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. The European Parliament's involvement in the debates on the political reaction to these two major sporting events is a largely unknown aspect of the history of the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 Summer Olympic Games. This Briefing will reconstruct these debates and the policy action that followed, based on new analysis of sources held in the Parliament's Historical Archives, and demonstrates that the EP's leitmotiv was the violation of human rights in both countries. Furthermore, the Briefing shows that these debates set the basis for the EP's current policy action when it comes to major sports events in countries with a poor track record of human rights.

Major sports events and politics are closely intertwined. Well-known historical examples of major sporting events that were used by regimes for political propaganda purposes are the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina and the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. The 1978 World Cup took place around two years after the Argentinian military regime's right-wing coup and its violent repression of critics, and was then the most political World Cup in the history of the International Federation of Association Football (Fédération Internationale de Football Association: FIFA). The 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow were the first to take place in eastern Europe and the first to be held in a socialist country. In addition, the 1980 Summer Olympic Games unleashed a hitherto, in the history of major sporting events, unprecedented boycott by 60 countries, in protest against the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. The European Parliament's involvement in the debates on the political reaction to these two major sporting events is a largely unknown aspect of the history of the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 Summer Olympic Games. This Briefing will reconstruct these debates and the policy action that followed, based on new analysis of sources held in the Parliament's Historical Archives, and demonstrates that the EP's leitmotiv was the violation of human rights in both countries. Furthermore, the Briefing shows that these debates set the basis for the EP's current policy action when it comes to major sports events in countries with a poor track record of human rights.