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Athletics

Allan Wells 1980 Moscow Olympics

Allan Wells

© SCRAN

For many Scots the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow remain memorable for two principle reasons. Their first recollections, namely the political wrangling and selective boycott of the games, will be shared by many around the world. The second, more powerful memory is Allan Wells becoming Olympic 100m champion.

On 19 July 1980 the world watched as Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev opened the XXII Olympiad. Three months earlier all the international focus had been on his cold war rival, the American President Jimmy Carter. Carter announced in March that as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and their subsequent refusal to leave the troubled country, the American Olympic team would not participate in the games.

Moscow stood firm in the face of criticism. The US was joined in the boycott by over 50 countries including West Germany, Canada, China and Japan. The British Government backed the boycott. The British Olympic Association (BOA) did not. On 25 March 1980 the BOA voted to send the British team to Moscow. The vote was not even close with only hockey opposing the decision to go. The British team, minus the hockey squad and those individuals who did not wish to participate for their own reasons, decided to take their place at the opening ceremony.

While the politicians played their own version of the Olympic Games, participants continued to prepare themselves. For many it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part on the biggest stage their sport offered.

At 28, Allan Wells was considered old for a sprinter but age did not concern him as he travelled to Moscow with medals in mind.

Allan Wells

© Getty

Preparing for the Olympics as a sprinter was not what Wells originally had in mind when his athletics career began. It was the triple jump at which Wells first excelled; he was the 1970 Scottish junior champion. He moved on to the long jump and jumped over 24 feet (7.32 metres) in 1972. While Wells was an able sprinter, he considered himself a long jumper in the world of athletics.

The decision to concentrate fully on sprinting came in 1976 and yielded sparkling results. A time of 10.55 seconds was clocked for the 100 metres and Wells took almost a second off his previous best 200 metres time, to record a 21.42.

At the 1978 Commonwealth Games, the gold medal in the 200 metres event belonged to Wells. He lost out by only 0.04 of a second to the great Don Quarrie in the 100 metres to gain silver. In 1982 in Brisbane, he would take gold over both distances. Wells left Edmonton a champion and in good form.

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