THE OLYMPIC GAMES could be moved from Moscow and held elsewhere next summer -- despite all the assertions that it is not possible. The barriers to doing so are political, traditional and economic in nature. They have nothing to do with the logistics of conducting athletic contests. If those who run the Games had the will and the money, they could hold the contests in other cities on other continents.
The Games, if they were moved, would be different. Most of the pomp and the gimmickry and product promotion would have to go -- including the opening parade of nations, those dramatic presentations of medals and that closing ceremony in which a kind of pagan tribute is paid to athletic ability. The Games might even have to be broken up -- track and field events in one city, swimming and diving in another, bicycling in a third (located, perhaps, in a different country). But the competition between athletes, which is the soul of the Olympics, could be the same.
The point is that when you strip the Olympics down to essentials, all that exist are athletic contests of the kind routinely held all over the world. Putting together a track meet is not a big deal -- world-class track meets are held several times everyyear. The same is true of most, although not all, of the other sports in the Games.
The reason cities spend six to eight years and millions of dollars preparing for the Games has little to do with the contests themselves. Those events have become a small part of what is a political and cultural showcase. Moscow, for instance, has been preparing not only for 10,000 athletes and coaches, but for 7,500 journalists (who come complete with a worldwide television network) and 300,000 foreigh spectators.
Almost any major city in this country or Europe could handle, on six months' notice, the requirements of the athletes -- perhaps not in all sports but in some of them. This metropolitan area, for example, has in place adequate facilities for track and field, soccer, basketball and gymnastics at the University of Maryland, the Capital Centre and RFK Stadium. It also could provide housing for competitors and coaches in university dor- mitories. The Washington symbolism might be a bit much, given the circumstances, but the example is typical. Other cities -- Los Angeles, Montreal, Tokyo, Melbourne and Munich come to mind -- may have even more of the necessary physical facilities in being.
Moving the Olympics would be costly. There would be contracts to break and new ones to make. Traditional formats would have to disappear and new ones replace them. But with money, ingenuity and determination, it could be done. Not, perhaps, to the satisfaction of the officials, spectators and journalists who are Olympics junkies, but to the satisfaction of the athletes who are out solely to prove that they are the best in the world.
Who knows? Moving the Games might be the best thing to happen to the Olympic movement in the last 50 years. It would provide the perfect occasion to strip the Games of all the baggage they have acquired and return them to what they started out to be -- contests between individuals for athletic supremacy.