Just as everyone knew they would, the 1980 Olympics have quickly become a two-way battle between the Soviet Union and East Germany, with only a few sparse medals remaining for the other competing nations.
The host USSR with its legion of some 350 athletes has taken the early lead as expected in both gold and overall medals. But the East Germans, just as they did at Montreal, continue to amaze the sports world by making a fight of it despite the tremendous disparity in the size of the two countries.
The figures after the first three days of competition showed the USSR with 10 gold medals and 21 overall, East Germany with five and 18 respectively, and no one else even in the ball game. Hungary stood in third place with two gold medals and five overall, while the best of the noncommunist nations were Great Britain, with a gold and two silvers, and Australia, with four bronzes.
The Soviets, in addition to scoring well in some of their traditionally strong sports such as gymnastics, weightlifting, and wrestling, are making their first major surge in men's swimming. This had been anticipated on the basis of their recent results, and of course the absence of the boycotting US team (always the dominant factor in men's swimming) opened the door even further for them.
Sergei Fesenko had the honor of becoming the first Soviet male swimmer ever to win an Olympic gold medal when he took the opening 200-meter butterfly event. Sergei Kopliakov won the 200 freestyle the next day, then Vladimir Salnikov climaxed his nation's newest breakthrough by becoming the first man ever to swim the 1,500 meters in under 15 minutes.
The East Germans, meanwhile, were dominating the women's swimming just as they had in Montreal, sweeping the first four gold medals and grabbing quite a few silvers and bronzes as well. Here, too, the boycott had a definite effect, however, for the US women had been outswimming their 1976 conquerors in recent events and had been expected to reclaim their historic No. 1 position.
Great Britain's lone gold medal winner was Duncan Goodhew, who helped break up the Soviet monopoly in the pool by winning the 100-meter breaststroke. his victory Tuesday night and that of Italy's Luciano Giovannetti in trap shooting earlier the same day were both followed by the use of the Olympic flag and anthem at the medal ceremony -- the gesture these and some other Western nations are making this year to protest the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. As far as could be determined, it was the first time the Olympic symbols had ever been used in place of national flags and anthemson such an occasion.