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Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz’s bras d’honneur salute, 1980 Moscow Olympics

The 1980 Moscow Olympics took place against the backdrop of the Solidarity movement in Poland as well as the American-led boycott.

In front of a hostile Russian crowd rooting for Soviet athlete Konstantin Volkov, the Polish pole-vaulter Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz set a new world record with a vault at 5.78m. After the jump he turned to the Moscow crowd and made a rude bras d’honneur salute, further provoking the Soviets. The salute became one of the most memorable images of the 1980 Games and immediately travelled around the world, except, ironically, to the Soviet Union and Poland. Signifying Polish resentment of Soviet influence, the gesture became immediately known as Kozakiewicz’s gesture (gest Kozakiewicza).

After the Olympics, the Soviet ambassador to Poland requested that Kozakiewicz should be stripped of his medal as he had “insulted the Soviet people”. The Polish government responded officially that the gesture was due to an involuntary muscle spasm caused by his physical exertion.

Image: Associated Press