Olympic triple task: end political discord, define amateur, cut drugs
Ahead for the Olympic movement: trying to heal political discords caused by the US boycott of the last seven months; trying to define who is an amateur athlete and who is a professional; and trying to improve doping control to uncover drugs now undetectable.
These three themes emerged during the Moscow Olympics, as Lord Killanin handed over to Spanish businessman and diplomat Juan Antonio Samaranch as president of the International Olympic Committee.
The specter of the boycott hung over the Moscow games, the most politically controversial since the Berlin games of 1936. In addition, a number of deliberately political protests took place. They ranged from an Italian demonstrator in Red Square (deported the next day after being kicked and punched by KGB agents) and a statement by French athletes deploring armed intervention into othprisoners in the USSR.
The surprise was not that these events occurred. It was that there weren't more of them, given the passions aroused by Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
Every games produce politics of one kind or another. As Lord Killanin remarked, every host city tries to use them to boost itself.
The difference here was that Moscow was trying to advertise and proclaim an entire social system, one whose ideology is basically opposed to the ideals of the West. No amount of soothing words from Soviet games organizers could hide the fact that the basic political conflict in the world today is between Western Judeo-Christian concepts and Marxist, materialistic atheism.
The two exist in a state of continuous tension -- and as a result, the decision of award the games to Moscow, takthe tension to the sports world. The Afghan boycott was simply the outgrowth of this tension, rather than the cause.
New IOC president Samaranch told his first press conference in Moscow Aug. 4 that "many elements" of the Olympic movement had been destroyed in recent months. The task now, he said, was to rebuild, to "recreate harmony."
He conceded that the games "could have been much better" if the boycotting countries had attended. But the Olympic movement remained strong, he maintained. The Moscow games saw 36 world records broken. The IOC supported the games in Los Angeles in 1984 and would continue to support them.
Mr. Samaranch was not satisfied with the current definitions of who was a professional and who was an amateur athlete, and said the IOC would keep studying the issue.
Meanwhile, the issue of drugs and detecting them in athletes emerged again. The head of the IOC medical commission, Prince Alexandre Merode of Belgium, said here Aug. 3 that not one single case of doping had been discovered at the Moscow games.
But Prof. Arnold Beckett of Britain, an IOC expert on drugs, who appeared with the Prince, qualified that comment. He said methods of detecting the most commonly used muscle-building drug -- anabolic steroids -- had greatly improved in recent years. But, he warned, there was reason to believe that some athletes in Moscow had been taking another substance, called testosterone, which could not be detected because it was naturally present in men and, to a lesser degree, in women.
In this sense, Dr. Beckett suggested that Moscow's clean bill of health may have been deceptive. All of which is relevant to the Los Angeles games in 1984 -- not least the high cost of making the necesary doping tests which reportedly exceeded $1 million at the Lake Placid winter Olympics.
In addition, past IOC president Lord Killanin has raised questions about the way the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAFF) has handled drug cases. Several East European women, suspended for 18 months, were suddenly reinstated after only 10 months, in time to compete in Moscow. Two won gold medals.
On another issue, the future siting of the games, at least some political wrangling might be avoided by holding the games in Greece every Olympic year, where they began.
Mr. Samaranch said he expected an IOC report within several months, but he indicated that Los Angeles was certain in 1984 and that the 1988 games would be awarded to cities early next year.
Contenders include Calgary, Alberta, and cities in Sweden and Italy for the Winter Games; and Nagoya, Japan, and Melbourne, Australia, for the summer games