Pros and the Olympics

If the United States Olympic Committee had its way, it would rewrite the Olympic eligibility rules. ''I'm not looking for open competition in the Olympics,'' says USOC president William Simon, ''but I don't see why an athlete who's a pro in one sport can't be an amateur, and therefore eligible for the Olympics, in another.''

The International Olympic Committee's refusal to go along with this reasoning will prevent nonpareil high hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah from competing in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Nehemiah relinquished his amateur standing by signing a pro football contract with the San Francisco 49ers. The same antiquated rules that bar Nehemiah also may have prevented volleyball enthusiast Wilt Chamberlain from ever spiking in the Olympics.

Pushing for eligibility changes is no easy task, because the USOC is hindered by the one nation/one vote structure of the IOC. ''Other countries don't want to give the US any benefits in international competition,'' Simon explains.

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