However, the BOA defied Mrs Thatcher and sent athletes across the iron curtain - though they officially competed under the Olympic flag, while the Olympic anthem replaced God Save the Queen at medal ceremonies.
From a standpoint of sporting spectacle, it was the right decision, as Coe and Ovett served up epic drama in the 800m and 1500m.
Though both British, the pair divided opinion and it seemed everyone had a favourite - either the smooth, clean-cut Coe or the fiercely driven Ovett. Nor did the pair exactly see eye to eye - theirs was a very real rivalry.
The world record holder Coe was favoured to win the 800m, but his adversary beat him into second place and looked set to double up in the 1500m.
Prior to the Olympics, Ovett said he had a 90 per cent chance of victory in the metric mile - a conservative estimate given his 45-race winning streak at the distance.
Yet Coe dug deep and defied the odds, with a shattered Ovett fading into third place.