Olympics: a boycott by a new name

The International Olympic Committee is prepared to let the United States burn its own bridges as regards participation in this summer's Moscow games. In a statement unanimously approved by the members of the Olympics' global governing body, Lord Killanin, the IOC president, indicated that the members "are unanimous that the games must be held in Moscow as planned."

Although Lord Killanin did qualify the announcement by saying he would still "keep all possible options open," the IOC actionon the eve of the Winter Olympics here dimmed hopes the summer games will be moved from Moscow, postponed , or canceled. These were the options the US Olympic Committee had encouraged the IOC to consider in light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They grew out of President Carter's promise of an American boycott of the summer games unless Soviet troups were withdrawn by Feb. 20.

Such a withdrawal is considered strategically impossible at this date, yet a White House spokesman states that the US position has not changed.

The US committee has until May 24 for formal entry in the Moscow Olympics. Since participation by IOC member nations in the games is not compulsory (and abstention not unprecedented), the US could simply let the date pass and not be subject to any future sanctions against it.

This is important to Americans looking ahead to 1984, when Los Angeles is scheduled to host the summer Olympics.

Unless a national Olympic committee has already submitted its entry, there is no penalty for nonparticipation. The only other way there could be repercussions is if the US committee publicly said its failure to take part at Moscow was forced by the US government.

Even if that were the case, Lord Killanin would not anticipate such an admission. "The USOC is experienced enough to know how to reply," he said in a news conference here.

Only the day before, the US committee president, Bob, Kane, explained that "From the outset, we've opposed to a boycott. . . . Boycott has hostile connotations. We wish to stay within the system and try to effect change by continuing our relationship with the IOC."

The US panel obviously feels it must walk a tightrope, remaining loyal both to the American public, which favors an Olympic boycott, and the IOC. Thus on the question of possible alternative competition if no US team goes to Moscow, the USOC is thinking strictly in terms of a national sports festival limited to American athletes. Two similar festivals have been held the past two years at the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, Colo. None was planned for this summer, however, it being an Olympic year.

Earlier in the Lake Placid Olympic countdown, US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance had addressed the IOC during its opening session. "To hold the Olympics in any nation that is warring on another," he said in reference to the Soviet Union, "is to lend the Olympic mantle to that nation's actions."

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