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NBC Flashback: Politics and the Olympics

Answer: Bill Bradley

Political issues have always buffeted the Olympics – from Hitler’s use of the 1936 Games as Nazi propaganda, to Western countries’ boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980, to questions around Russia’s politics in Sochi today. In the run-up to the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, one man who had found success in both politics and athletics decided he’d had enough of the two mixing.

U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, a former Olympic gold medalist and NBA All-Star, went on NBC’s TODAY Show in May of 1984 to argue for radical changes to the Olympics. Bradley proposed relocating the Games permanently to their original birthplace, Greece, and broadening their focus in order to promote “brotherhood” between nations. Bradley’s suggestions may seem extreme now, but in 1984, the specter of the 1980 boycott and political struggles over the upcoming Games still hung over the American public.

Bill Bradley on Politics and the Olympics in 1984 4:46

Later that summer the Soviet Union would boycott the Los Angeles games, along with other Eastern Bloc countries and Cuba. A month after Bradley’s NBC appearance, the Senate passed a nonbinding amendment recommending that the Olympics be held at a permanent site in the future to protect them from ''unwarranted and disruptive international politics.'' The Olympics of course never followed the path Bradley recommended and have moved all over the world since 1984, returning to Russia last week. You can watch the full TODAY Show segment on Politics and the Olympics from May of 1984 in the clip below. And don’t miss NBC’s full coverage of the Sochi Games.