The Time Tony Kornheiser Pissed Off The Entire Country of Bolivia and Created An International Incident
Saying that it feared a violent reaction to a recent sports column in The Washington Post, Bolivia has canceled a visit to that country by two American teams and is considering withdrawing from the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
The column, written last week by Tony Kornheiser, dealt with Bolivia’s announcement in May that the economy would not allow the country to field an Olympic squad, a decision that was later reversed. (6/15/1984)
Mr. Kornheiser, reached at home in Washington, said he was sorry if he had offended Bolivians. ”I certainly meant no disrespect to the Bolivian people,” he said, adding that the aim of the column was satirical and that it had been written ”tongue in cheek.”
Bolivia has decided not to participate in the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games to protest a recent Washington Post article that “injured the dignity of the country,” Bolivian Sports Secretary Julio Barragan said. (6/24/1984)
In a Washington Post column, which writer Tony Kornheiser said was intended to be humorous, he suggested that “one of the sponsors of the games, such as Budweiser could bring the Bolivian athletes (to Los Angeles) and that they could later pay their debt selling beer.”
Kornheiser also wrote that he would give $13 to the team if Bolivia baptized its national flower with the name of the Australian singer Olivia Newton-John. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he wrote,” the Bolivia Olivia.”
We hope Bolivia’s athletes are sturdier than the dignity of their leaders…It is one thing to stay away from the Olympics for bona fide reasons of poverty. But to base an Olympics boycott on something no more earth-shaking than a newspaper column, by a writer who has apologized and said he meant no disrespect, is ludicrous. (6/29/1984)
The Bolivian government changed a previous decision Monday and authorized a delegation of four athletes to participate in the Los Angeles Olympics, according to Miguel Urioste, a government official. (7/10/1984)
"Independent of any political considerations, and having received public satisfaction on the part of a press organ that affected the dignity of our country, the constitutional government has decided to authorize the trip of Bolivia’s four best athletes."
U.S. Ambassador Edwin Corr and political and sports figures later met with Barragan in an effort to persuade him to reverse the government’s decision.