Olympics enterprise

First it was a space shot launched by private enterprise instead of taxpayers. Now all systems are go for the private-enterprise launch of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Last summer's rocket was sent up by a Texas firm with only seven employees. The Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee is forging ahead with 200 salaried workers compared to the 2,000 on the payroll at this juncture for the deficit-ridden Montreal games of 1976.

Yes, Los Angeles possesses advantages such as having so many sports and dormitory facilities already available. But, even so, putting on the games is a mammoth venture. Local voters were ready to have them only if they didn't have to pay for them.

Result: a potential gold medal for the good old American entrepreneurship that rushed in to fill the vacuum. This is not a charity asking for donations - these are sent back or held at interest for financing Olympic visits by young people. Rather here are people with something to sell (TV rights, advertising rights, franchise rights) and corporations, foreign and domestic, with the money to buy. And here is the effort to apply businesslike practices to such matters as bringing down the per diem cost of accommodating the athletes.

In other words, a greedy capitalist exploitation of the Olympic bastions of amateur sport, as the Russians say. No, no, not if the ideals expressed by chief organizer Peter Ueberroth are carried through. Sponsors not only have to make large financial commitments, he says, but they have to meet certain standards of commercial integrity and prove a long-term commitment to young people and sports.

Indeed, the goal appears to be a de-commercialized Olympics even under galloping commercial sponsorship. There will be no business signs in the stadiums, and even the airspace above them will be restricted, promises Mr. Ueberroth.

So far, the prospect is not only no deficits but substantial surpluses to use in support of amateur athletics.

We can hardly wait for the liftoff.

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