With the Summer Olympic Games concluded in Rio, it brought my memory back to the Goodwill Games. No, these weren’t games sponsored by the thrift shop chain and it didn’t involve discount athletes. The Goodwill Games were held from 1986-2001 as an alternative to the Olympic Games which had become marred by politics and Cold War indifference. The games were created by Ted Turner in reaction to the political posturing by the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1980s. The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviets invading Afghanistan. The Soviets returned the favor by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Turner spearheaded the games in hopes that the games would restore relations between Russiai and America. He, as well as many others, did not agree with using the Olympics as a politician tool in boycotting competition.
The first games were held in Moscow in 1986 and featured 182 events and 79 countries with over 3,000 athletes competing. World records were set by Sergey Bubka (pole vault) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (heptathlon), men’s and women’s 200 m cycle racing.
Some interesting tidbits about the Goodwill Games:
- Featured the same track stars, swimmers and gymnasts as the Olympics but eliminated preliminary rounds of competition so that every event was a final.
- Included Motoball in 1986 which was a sport that was motorcycle polo with all players (except goalkeepers) riding motorcycles. 1986 was the only year it was included.
- First international event to feature beach volleyball in 1994.
- Goodwill Games never competed in same years at the Olympic Games.
Summer games were held in Moscow (1986), Seattle (1990), Saint Petersburg (1994), New York City (1998) and Brisbane (2001). They were scheduled to be held in Phoenix, Arizona in 2005 when the games were cancelled.
Winter games were held in Lake Placid, New York (2000) and scheduled for Calgary, Alberta in 2005 when the games were cancelled.
The games were bought from Turner by Time Warner in 1996 and organized the 2001 Games in Brisbane, Australia before announcing that would be the last edition of the games because of increasing costs and low television ratings. Turner blamed the demise of the games on the management of Time Warner. Some attribute to the demise of the games to the fall of the Berlin Wall and lack of urgency to promote peace after the end of the Cold War.