As Olympic torch passes to new president, so does political swirl
Moscow — When Lord Killanin took over as head of the Olympic movement in 1972, outgoing president Avery Brundage turned to him and said: "Goodbye Michael, good luck, there won't be any games in Montreal [in 1976]."
When Spanish businessman-turned-diplomat Juan Antonio Samaranch was elected to succeed Lord Killanin in Moscow recently, Lord Killanin said to him:
"Good luck, there will be games in Los Angeles [in 1984], and there will be games in 1988, although I can't tell you where."
Telling the story to newsmen in Moscow, Lord Killanin underscored his confidence by saying he had given Mr. Samaranch "the new model of the Killanin tie, which has an Olympic flag flying, which I am sure will fly for a long time."
Yet the setting of his words and the storms of political controversy that hover over the international Olympic committee mean some fundamental problems ahead for the IOC and its incoming president.
Many Western observers here also believe that by going on to criticize President Carter sharply, saying he does not fully understand how international sport is run, Lord Killanin only compounded the political problems Mr. Samaranch faces.
Some Americans here were outraged at Lord Killanin's remark that, not only had Mr. Carter failed to understand the workings of the various Olympic and international sports bodies, but that all he did know about was baseball and American football.
In an ironic aside, Lord Killanin remarked that if baseball and football had been in the games, "perhaps we would not have had a boycott." This indicated that he felt the United States boycott was mounted on something less than a matter of principle. It was a remark that could only anger the US government and worsen already rock-bottom relations between the US and the Olympic leadership. In turn, the Soviets are standing by, pleased at the US-IOC tension , and leaving the door open to engineering changes in Olympic rules that would deprive Los Angeles of its games in retaliation for this year's US boycott.
Lord Killanin clearly wanted to belittle the White House handling of the boycott. And he showed no signs of yielding to the latest White House letter, which said it would be "highly inappropriate" for the US flag to be used at any time during the Moscow games.
The IOC position is that it intends to fly the US flag in Lenin Stadium, but only after the 1980 ames have been formally declared closed, and at a brief ceremony that in fact marks the beginning of protocol and pomp connected with 1984.
The US flag is to fly along with the Soviet and Olympic flags to symbolize the handing on of the games from Moscow to Los Angeles. Lord Killanin and the IOC executive board say they will discuss the White House request that Old Glory not be flown, but that IOC protocol takes precedence. "Well, who controls our flag anyway," demanded one irate American here. "It's our flag and we say who can fly it." Peter Ueberroth, president of the organizing committee for the Los Angeles games, takes a flatly opposing view: He supports the right of the IOC to conduct its own ceremonies in its own way -- turned down a last-minute appeal by the Los Angeles committee to let the flag be flown.
Then Lord Killanin discussed issues pertaining directly to the athletes themselves, including eligibility question. On that issue he said, "On the one hand, you have accusations that in the socialist world there are technically no professionals and everyone has a job but is given as much time off [as he needs] .
"And on the other extreme of the capitalist world, you get people virtually getting no assistance whatsoever, and having to make great sacrifices. Somewhere in the middle you get people employed by big firms [who have] university scholarships, who have advantages . . This conflicts has an effect on the athlete . . . ."
Lord Killanin, in discussing the news media, especially television, said that it had contributed enormously to the poppularity of the games and that its immense payments had helped finance the IOC and individual sports federations. On the negative side, he felt that relations with television had to be handled carefully, with close cooperation. He said earlier in Moscow that TV had turned the games into a forum for political protest.
Also, he felt new standards should be worked out so that the penalties against athletes for taking money and for taking so-called body-building drugs such as anabolic steroids would be more equal.
Lord Killanin, who officially concludes his eight years in office Aug. 3, stood firm by the IOC "obligation" to hold the 1984 games in Los Angeles. The Olympics will continue, he maintains, but they must change and evolve.