US presses for boycott of Moscow Olympics
The Carter administration, stung by resistance in athletic circles to its Olympic boycott plans, is pulling out all the stops to explain why it feels no US team should go to Moscow and to reaffirm its resolve that no such team will go.Skip to next paragraph
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In a special briefing for Eastern newsmen this week, Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher and other spokesmen urged support of the government's position that:
* Participation would be contrary to US foreign policy and against the interests of national security.
* A boycott would have a significant impact on the Soviet Union, which has gone to great lengths to use the awarding of the Olympic Games to Moscow as a propaganda vehicle and as "proof" of the correctness of its system.
* Athletes are only one of many groups being asked to sacrifice via the various measures President Carter has taken to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
* A quick vote of support by the US Olympic Committee is vital in terms influencing other countries.
* Any attempt to defy the President will be opposed by the government with every legal resource at its command.
"We know this is a sacrifice -- but we also know of no single peaceful action that would bring home as dramatically our objection to the USSR's actions," Christopher said. "Many nations are watching to see if we'll be firm or waver," he added. "The Soviets are watching too. They would like to believe that in time our concern will lessen. "If we firmly and clearly show the way, I think the rest of the world will applaud, and much of the rest of the world will follow us."
The timing of this and other such briefings around the country -- 2 1/2 months after President Carter first announced the boycott and just before a scheduled vote by the USOC this coming weekend on its position -- was no accident.
"It's precisely because of the upcoming vote," State Department spokesman Hodding Carter III said in reply to a question about the timing. "It's clear there's strong opposition in some quarters -- frankly more than we anticipated.
"We made an assumption that the athletic organizations, no less than farmers, businessmen, and cultural groups, would go along. Instead there is a rather massive campaign to, in effect, face down not only the President of the United States but both houses of Congress, which voted overwhelmingly in support, and the United States people, who have supported the boycott in every poll."
Asked to what he attributed the opposition, he said:
"It's a blindered approach to a problem in which you believe that the sun rises and falls on your interest. . . ."
Hodding Carter and other speakers made it clear that while they hoped to elicit voluntary compliance, the government was prepared to get tough if necessary. This was evident when the questioning turned to how the administration would react to an adverse vote by the committee, or to a situation in which athletes tried to compete individually, though the latter would require a change in IOC rules.
"As the President has said, we do not intend to prevent individuals from traveling in the USSR," Mr. Christopher said, "but we do intend to exert all the authority we have to prevent a US team from competing.
"We found adequate authority in our laws to prevent sales of Olympic-related material, and to prevent a $20 million TV rights payment. We have strong measures we can take. We prefer that the USOC . . . vote not to go."