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Nowra athlete Merv Bennett stopped from travelling to 1980 Moscow Olympics

In 1980 Nowra Olympian Merv Bennett was prevented from travelling to Moscow, Russia.

Just minutes before he was about to board a plane to Moscow, Merv Bennett was told by the Olympic Federation of Australia they had cancelled the chartered flight for the Australian Equestrian team.

Speaking to The Shoalhaven and Nowra News just after he heard the shattering news, he had trouble finding the words to express his emotion.

"They have just told me that it is all off," he said.

"Our plane was to leave on February 24 - but that's been cancelled.

"I don't know what to say.

"It is only a fortnight since they said we were definitely going to the Games, no matter what.

"Now the Olympic Federation and the Equestrian Federation say the situation has to be reassessed.

"It will all depend on what Mr Fraser says."

Bennett, who was the captain of Australia's Olympic eventing team said at the time it was extremely unlikely the team would make it to the warm-up for the Games in Badminton, England.

He was still hopeful though, that Russia would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and allow of the Moscow Games to go ahead without the boycott.

As an athlete who'd put in years of training for the Games, Bennett's views were strong.

"Australia must boycott the Olympic Games," he said.

"Unless Russia withdraws from Afghanistan we should not go there.

"However I think it is the duty of every athlete to stay in training so that if the Russians do get out we can do to the Olympics."

Bennett believed, as did many observers at the time did, that the Russian would bow out of Afghanistan just in time to circumvent a Western Boycott of the Games.

He resented the fact the Olympic teat was being used as "a ransom" to apply pressure to the Russians.

"We won't stop the sale of wool to Russia or take any action that will hurt us," he said.

"And if we, the athletes, are to be used as the sole tool in this matter we should be reimbursed for all the money we have invested to prepare for these Games."

During the 1980 Moscow Olympics some Australian athletes competed under the Olympic flag but the equestrian team was pulled out.

Information provided by Shoalhaven Historical Society.

Article courtesy of Australian Community Media and The South Coast Register

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