Host City: Moskva, Soviet Union
Venue(s): Swimming Pool, Central Lenin Stadium Area, Moskva; Swimming Pool, Olympiysky Sports Complex, Moskva
Date Started: July 20, 1980
Date Finished: July 29, 1980
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to the round-robin final pool.
The United States-led boycott was hardly noticed as the top four water polo teams for almost 30 years had been Hungary, Yugoslavia, Italy, and the Soviet Union, all of whom were in Moscow. In major internationals before Moscow, this was still evident as Hungary won the 1977 Worlds, with Yugoslavia and Italy taking the other medals, and at the 1978 European Championships, Italy won gold, Hungary silver, and Yugoslavia bronze.
The biggest upset of the Moscow preliminaries was that Italy placed third in Group B and did not make the final round, placing behind the Soviet Union and Spain, which was moving onto the world water polo stage to soon become a power. Group A saw Hungary win with the Netherlands second, while Group C advanced Yugoslavia and Cuba to the final pool.
The Soviet Union won its second water polo gold medal, after 1972, by winning all five of its games in the medal round, defeating Yugoslavia 8-7 in a match that determined the gold medal, the Yugoslavs taking silver. Hungary won the bronze, losing both of their matches to the Soviets and Yugoslavia by one goal. This marked the 12th consecutive Olympic Games at which Hungary had won a medal in water polo, with six golds, three silvers, and three bronzes. The streak would end at Los Angeles in 1984, but likely only because of the Soviet-led boycott. [István Szivós] competed for Hungary in Moscow, winning his fourth consecutive Olympic medal.
Spain placed fourth, with new young star Manuel Estiarte, who led all goal scorers with 22. Estiarte would eventually compete in six Olympics, and he would be the leading goal scorer in 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992, setting the all-time Olympic record for a single tournament in 1984 with 34 goals. He is considered, along with Hungary’s Dezső Gyarmati, winner of five Olympic medals from 1948-64, one of the two greatest water poloists of all-time.