Moscow — Olympic postcripts: A particular irony of the 1980 games was how the Soviets and friends kept parroting the party line that politics and sports don't mix.
This might not have sounde so strange except that those deploring the US boycott included many of the same African countries that had walked out a Montreal in 1976 over a political dispute.
Ths USSR, too, has interesting boycott history for a nation which has spent the last two weeks decrying such tactics. A small sampling includes several tactics. A small sampling includes several track meets with the United States in the late 1960s because of the American involvement in Vietnam (notice any analogy there?); the 1976 chess olympics in Israel; the 1974 soccer World Cup in Chile; and various world championships, in "unfriendly" countries such as South Korea and West Germany.
As for the Olympics, the Soviet pulled out of this "bourgeois" event right after the revolution in 1917 and didn't return until 1952. They also threatened to boycott the 1968 Olympic Games unless South African was excluded -- and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) acquiesced, just as it was to do in the case of an African demand for the ouster of Rhodesia four years later.
Obviously neither the IOC nor the Soviets takes the idea of separating sports and politics seriously. But you'd never have known that listening to them here.
One might have thought even the most chauvinistic Soviet officials would have been satisified with this year's domination of the competition, yet there were allegations that the Russians still tried to stack the deck whenever possible.
In sports where the judging was done by international panels -- gymnastics, boxing, diving, etc. -- there were accusations of pressure to give Soviet athletes favored treatment. And in track and field, where all judges were from the host country, so many irregularities occurred that the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) finally stepped in and sent its red-jacketed observers onto the field to monitor the officiating. They were "too little and too late," though in the case of controversial Soviet victories in the triple jump and men's javelin.
In the former, the judges seemed to acquire "eable eyes" when either of the top two non-Soviet contenders was jumping, calling nine fouls in their 12 attempts. The big dispute came when Ian Campbell of Australia got off the longest jump of the day only to be charged with a foul on what the Aussies say is shown clearly on tape to have been a legal jump. Meanwhile the Soviet competitors, who somehow seemed to have less trouble getting off their marks legally, finished 1-2.
In the javelin, it appeared to some that the top Soviet thrower fouled in his first three attempts and should have been eliminated. Instead he advanced to the finals, which he won.
There were also allegations that during this event Soviet officials were opening and closing the huge gates at the end of the stadium at strategic moments in hopes of creating a "wind tunnel" effect when their throwers were competing. This was denied, and of course is impossible to prove.
Anyway, the overall situation did eventually get so flagrant that the IAAF, which originally had agreed to keep its "red jackets" off the field so as not to embarrass the Soviet hosts, felt compelled to switch signals and sent them out there. One good thing that could come of it all, however, would be if the IAAF recognized the necessity of following the lead of other international organizations and using officials from different nations in the future despite the extra expense involved.
Just about everybody here figured that Miruts Yifter's 5,000 and 10,000 meter victories would certainly mark his swan song in Olympic competition -- but incredible as it seems, that may not be the case.
Asked following his first victory whether he still planned to be running at Los Angeles in 1984, the amazing veteran from Ethiopia dodged the question by voicing the standard communist line on this subject: "How do we know the Olympic will be in Los Angeles?" The topic didn't come up at his second press conference , but in an interview with the Monitor he gave a surprising answer to the same question.
"Of course I'll run in 1984," he said. "I'll runs the 5,000 and 10,000 again -- or maybe try the marathon."
He'll be in his 40s then, and few runners have ever competed at the top level as such an age. There always has to be a first, though, and the way he ran at these games Miruts Yifter looks like a good choice to break the barrier if anyone can.