February 19, 1980 – A day with fingers crossed if you were an athlete heading to the Olympics in Moscow. The invasion of Afghanistan, coupled with the hostage situation in Tehran was putting the Carter White House in a state of turmoil.
On this day, President Carter issued an ultimatum to Moscow: End the military occupation of Afghanistan, withdraw troops and do it by February 20, 1980 (in 24 hours) or face a boycott of the Olympics by the U.S. and those other countries who supported us. Such a move was not a popular one, particularly with the athletes themselves, some who had trained for years if not their entire lives for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics. But Carter was under pressure to do something and this ultimatum, delivered in the form of an address to a gathering at an American Legion convention in Washington, provided the most support. The President was well received by the Legionnaires, but enjoyed his strongest responses when he attacked the Soviet Union for its invasion of Afghanistan. Within two weeks, the President hoped to put together concrete proposals for alternate Olympic Summer Games. The plans included holding various events such as swimming in one city, track and field in another, and the Equestrian events in a third; all of them abroad. The locations being considered included Melbourne, Tokyo and Montreal.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Vance flew to Europe in another effort at having the Western allies speak and act with a common voice in the Soviet crisis. Vance arrived in Bonn, West Germany to discuss what he termed a “strong and coordinated response” to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. What he was more likely to find was a weak and poorly coordinated response. Vance had originally planned to Chair a meeting on Afghanistan with British, French, West German and Italian Foreign Ministers. France backed out when Washington publicized what France thought was a private, informal meeting. Washington also appeared to have annoyed the West Germans by pushing too hard for punitive action against the Soviet Union. So, there would be no meeting with the joint allies, and Vance would have to travel to each of the capitals instead.
And that’s just a little of what went on, this February 19, 1980 as reported by The World Tonight from CBS News.