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Metzker still feeling the pain of Moscow 1980

27 June 2015

AOC: Time heals old wounds but leaves the scars. That is certainly the case for Olympic swimmer Max Metzker who competed for Australia at the Moscow Games in 1980.

Metzker and other athletes and officials were caught up in probably the most bitter dispute in the history of Australian sport when the Prime Minister of the day, Malcolm Fraser, pressured them to boycott the Moscow Games.

35 years on and Metzker compares his feelings with those of the Vietnam veterans who were shunned when they returned home.

 “Moscow seems to be the Olympics no one wants to talk about, or it is mentioned in hushed tones. It seems to be that particular embarrassing family member no one wants to be associated with,” says Metzker.

Three decades have passed but Metzker is still feeling the pain. “No other team in the history of the Games has ever had a gun held to their head to not attend the Games.”

The USA called for a boycott of Moscow in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Prime Minister Fraser supported his American allies.

The row split the nation, it split the Australian Olympic Federation (later to become the Australian Olympic Committee).

Champion athletes including swimmer Tracey Wickham and sprinter Raelene Boyle, withdrew from the Team and yachting, men’s and women’s hockey, equestrian sports, volleyball and shooting all withdrew their Teams.

In the end Australia sent a Team of 124 athletes. Metzker carried the flag in the Opening Ceremony with Denise Robertson (nee Boyd).

He won a bronze medal in the 1500 metres freestyle and remains extremely proud of what his Team achieved.

“The Moscow Olympic team, meaning every athlete and staff member should be honoured for the legacy they left. Every person on that Team showed that we believed in the Olympic ideal we were all put to the acid test and some failed because cash came first.”

The boy from Maroubra is not bitter. Metzker wants present day athletes to understand what the word struggle is all about. He wants them to understand the need to stick close to your mates in the face of adversity. 

“There is something I've been wanting to get off my chest for a long time. The AOC has been celebrating various successful Olympics over the years. The success being medal totals. It is easy to be successful when you are supported by 25 million people, the Government and corporations throwing around the cash. The new Olympians wouldn't even know about Moscow or realise that the reason Australia has kept the record of being at every Games, is because of the brave staff and athletes that suffered horrid verbal abuse and threats.”

To him, the Moscow Team is the epitome of an Australian Olympic Team.

“I just believe that every athlete and staff member of that team should be proudly held up to all the new breed of athletes to illustrate personification of pride, courage and 100% commitment to the Olympic ideal.  

“This is not about me, but about us as a Team that created a history that hopefully no Australian team will ever be subjected to again.”

Mike Tancred

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