Hiram Clawson / Los Angeles Times
May 23, 2012
The Soviet Union and 13 other Eastern Bloc nations gave payback for the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics by not showing up in Los Angeles in 1984. As if searching for another bogeyman opponent, NBC settled on South Africa, which was not allowed to compete because of its apartheid policy, so when South African distance runner Zola Budd moved to London to compete for England, the network settled on a "rivalry" with American distance runner Mary Decker. Never mind that a third woman, Romanian Maricica Puic, had a better time in their race, the 3,000 meters, than either of them. The race did not disappoint, at least in the personal-drama realm. Budd and Decker bumped three times, the last one making Decker slip and fall off the track and did not get back into the race. Budd later said that made her embarrassed, especially after the L.A. crowd started booing her. She came in seventh.