Chiswick Yachtsmen Want Apology For Missing Olympics
Political boycott in 1980 denied local sailors their part in the games
Two Chiswick sailors who were denied their chance to take part in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of a political boycott, have called on the Royal Yachting Association to apologise for pulling the team out of the games without consulting them.
As London continues to build up to the 2012 Games, Colin and Gavin Simonds have set up a petition calling for the yachting organisation to enshrine the rights of its athletes to be consulted should such a situation ever arise again. The petition at www.nomoreRYAolympicboycotts.com was set up last week and has attracted over one hundred signatures.
The British sailing squad had prepared for the 1980 Games with six crews and twelve athletes but they never got to compete at Tallinn where the racing was held. The RYA Council was one of four sporting organisations to heed prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s call to boycott the Games over Russia’s military intervention in Afghanistan.
Eleven of the twelve members of the team (one is deceased) are still fighting to have their situation recognised, and have written to Sebastian Coe, head of the 2012 Olympics but according to Colin Simonds, while he sympathised with their position, he felt unable to help.
"Why will the RYA not follow US President Carter’s lead and say sorry for the 1980 Olympic Boycott? We never want to see this happen again to any athlete." Mr. Simonds told ChiswickW4.com
They claim, the RYA could award them medals along the same lines as the Congressional medals that were awarded to the American Olympic team in recognition of the sacrifices they made when the United States boycotted the 1980 Games.
Their petition calls for a requirement for an athletes’ vote to be solidly embedded in the Articles of Association of the RYA so that the organisation can never again force another team to withdraw from the Olympics without consulting their members through a general meeting vote first. Last November an Early Day Motion was tabled in the House of commons by Sir Peter Bottomley supporting the initiative and recommending that the eleven sailors be invited to the London Opening ceremony as a gesture of recognition for what they were forced to forego.
Colin Simonds says "The RYA of 1980 behaved badly towards us all, we were ignored and misled. It is not too late for the RYA of today to make an effort to put that right and ensure no other generation of British sailing has to endure the same treatment.
He said they were making efforts to contact the teams from the other sports affected by the 1980 boycott. Other national bodies governing shooting, equestrianism and hockey joined the RYA in supporting then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s boycott while sporting authorities in 14 other sports left it to the individuals. If anyone knows any other 1980 Boycott athletesplease contact Colin at 1980OlympicCampaign@talktalk.net.
Track athletes at the time did have a vote and elected to attend the games but the sailors did not have that option.
The yachtsmen also said the RYA could invite them to the opening ceremony at the Olympic Park in July, or allow veterans watch the racing in Weymouth.
The RYA has been contacted for comment. It is understood the veteran yachting team is invited to a reception when the Olympic torch passes Weymouth.
Minutes from the 1980 RYA Council meeting where the decision was taken, report that “the decision was made in light of the prevailing circumstances” with fears of having Sports Council funding frozen if backing was not given, cited as a possible reason for the action.
Colin Simonds said, " It is exactly the fact that the RYA folded so easily to outside pressure, that the RYA rules need to be changed to be the same as the track athletes. Lord Coe has said that if the Track athletes had folded like the RYA, the 2012 Olympics would not be in London."
March 5, 2012