Nyet Again

3 minute read

More boycotters join Moscow

The meeting of the eight-member executive board of the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) at Lausanne’s ornate Palace Hotel last week was billed as a last-ditch attempt to persuade the Soviet Union to reconsider its boycott of this summer’s Olympic Games in Los Angeles. But the effort was over before it began. Conferring privately the evening before the meeting, Los Angeles Olympic Organizer Peter Ueberroth and Soviet Sports Chief Marat Gramov found themselves in accord on one point and not much else. Said Ueberroth: “It would be misleading to suggest that we came even an inch closer to a solution.” Agreed Gramov: “The decision is irrevocable.”

Even before the meeting, Hungary and Poland joined the list of Soviet satellites stepping into line behind the boycott. That brought the total to ten, including the U.S.S.R. (the others: Bulgaria, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Viet Nam and Laos). Warsaw’s decision was especially reluctant—and poignant—because much of the money used to train its teams had been donated by Polish organizations situated abroad, especially in the U.S. Keenly aware of the country’s straitened circumstances in the wake of the 1982 military clampdown, the groups wanted to assure a dignified and well-prepared Olympic showing for Polish athletes. Polish Olympic Committee Chairman Marian Renke, said a friend, was so disappointed that he looked “as if a tractor had run over him.”

That left Rumania as Moscow’s only Warsaw Pact ally still wavering. President Nicolae Ceauşescu was abroad when the boycott was announced and has yet to voice an opinion on the subject. It was still possible that some other nations economically or politically dominated by the Soviet Union could decide to join the pullout; Cuba is one such possibility. Even so, it seemed a fair bet that more nations will be sending Olympic teams to Los Angeles than the 81 that participated in Moscow’s 1980 Games, which were boycotted by the U.S. and more than 30 other countries. Said U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman William Simon: “We still expect to get more than 100 countries competing in Los Angeles.”

Curiously, Gramov disclosed that some 200 Soviets would still be traveling to the Los Angeles Games, including “judges, officials, journalists and tourists.” That announcement provided one more indication that the Soviet decision to boycott the Olympics was based on political calculations rather than the security concerns Moscow claimed. Hearing of the Soviet attendees, Ueberroth asked sarcastically, “They would be safe, and the Soviet athletes in the protected Olympic Village would not?”

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