In his 1981 book, Political History of the Olympic Games, author David B. Kanin wrote that while the Moscow boycott did not succeed in moving the Games from the Soviet capital, it did rob the authorities of the sense of international legitimacy hosting the Games normally confers on the host country.
"There was no way for the Soviet government to hide from its people the depth of anger over Afghanistan, nor to embellish an event now largely reduced to the level of a Warsaw Pact inter-army game," Kanin wrote.
Flashback: CNS News: 'Boycott Beijing Olympics' Campaign Launched
Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) conceded that without the backing of major governments a boycott would never materialize, but said a campaign had to begin somewhere.
"Given the massive human rights violations in China, it seems unacceptable to us that the Chinese government be allowed the right to host the world's most prestigious sporting event," it reads in part.
The petition is addressed to U.N. member states, which are urged to publicly voice their disapproval of the International Olympic Committee's decision to grant the 2008 Games to Beijing, and to support a boycott.
The Paris-based group said the reasons used to justify a U.S.-led boycott by around 60 nations of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow were relevant in Beijing's case too.
As the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, so too has China taken possession of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, it said, charging that the Chinese today infringes human rights more vigorously than the Soviets had done in the late 1970s.
"The Olympic movement was discredited in 1936, when it allowed the Nazis to make the Games a spectacle to glorify the Third Reich," said RSF. "
In 1980, in Moscow, the IOC suffered a terrible defeat when more than 50 countries boycotted the Olympics.
"In 2008, the international sporting movement must refuse to tolerate one of the world's bloodiest dictatorships."
But new tactics had to be found, he insisted.
"Each year human rights organizations go to Geneva to try to see China condemned by the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Every year we are depressed, because China is too strong. We have to find other ways, and I think the pressure that civil society can put on our governments is very important."
The Moscow Olympics had no positive effect at all, they told him. The only good thing to come out of the episode was the boycott, which had awoken many Soviet citizens to the realization that their country was out of step with much of the international community.
"It's completely wrong to say the Olympic Games helped with the democratization of Russia. It was the boycott itself that had the impact."