Echoing the euphoria many Americans felt from the Olympic performance of the United States team at the Winter Games, President Carter praised the athletes as "modern-day American heroes" in a ceremony at the White House Feb. 25.
Even so, Mr. Carter maintained his position that the country would be best served by boycotting the summer games in Moscow and holding "alternative, world-class competition" this summer.
The President said he planned to meet soon with representative members of American athletes-in-training to discuss the alternative games with them. His reason, he said Feb. 25, remains that "the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan has violated peace and the principles of the Olympics."
Mr. Carter hugged speed skater Eric Heiden and shook hands with the rest of the 150 Americans. A large crowd on the South Lawn of the White House cheered and waved American flags while the US Marine Corps band played patriotic music. A large group of congressional leaders and most of the cabinet were present.
"What an incredible outpouring," one White House staffer commented after the song "This Is My Country" was played. "You can just feel the patriotism."
The object of the "outpouring" was the American contingent to the Lake Placid games, winners of 12 medals overall, including five golds by Eric Heiden and a hard- won gold by the US hockey team.
The President has described his decision to seek a boycott of the Moscow games as "irrevocable." But a formal decision on American participation will have to wait until the US Olympic Committee meets April 11.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) continues to fight to keep politics out of the summer games in Moscow. At closing ceremonies in Lake Placid, IOC chairman Lord Killanin said he believed the Olympics "proved we can do something to improve the mutual understanding in the world" and added: "If we could all come together, it would be for a better world. . . ."