03:38 am
26 May 2017

The Day Julius Nyerere Refused to Meet Ali

Dar es Salaam — Muhammad Ali’s only trip to Tanzania was 36 years ago. But he wasn’t here for boxing. The outspoken personality was on a diplomatic mission. He had suddenly been thrust into the cold war politics played out in Africa at the time.

On February 2, 1980, Ali landed in Dar es Salaam for his three-day mission: To convince Tanzania to boycott the 1980 Summer Moscow Olympics.


US President Jimmy Carter had sent the boxer, who was at that time on a tour of India, to five African countries to convince them to boycott the Moscow Olympics in retaliation against Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Hundreds of enthusiastic Tanzanians, who had turned up at the airport to greet the great sportsman, ignored barricades and mobbed Ali when he emerged from the plane, according to reports.

But the excitement ended at the airport. The visit was a failure. Not only did Tanzania refuse to boycott the Olympics, President Julius Nyerere also refused to meet with the boxing legend despite multiple efforts and intense lobbying by US embassy officials.