Acting with unusual speed, the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday approved with only one dissent a resolution supporting President Carter's request that the United States not participate in the 1980 Summer Olympics Games unless they are transferred from Moscow.
After listening to nearly five hours to testimony from United States Olympic Committee (USOC) President Robert J. Kane and Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher, the committee took only minutes to approve the resolution by voice vote.
The resolution, introduced by Chairman Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.) and 31 others, calls for the USOC to honor the request of the president that it propose to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the Moscow Games be shifted to an alternatively site or canceled in repudiation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In further urges the IOC to adopt the proposal, which IOC President Lord Killanin has adamantly insisted it will not do. If the IOC rejects the proposal, the resolution urges that the USOC and the Olympic committees of other countries not participate in the 1980 Summer Olympics and instead conduct "alternative games of their own."
The House Rules Committee agreed to meet in special session this morning on the resolution, and is expected to clear the way for it to be brought to the House floor this afternoon. It is expected to be approved there swiftly and go immediately to the Senate, where approval is also expected
Barring an unforeseen snag, the resolution should thus have the overwhelming endorsement, of both houses of Congress by the time the 86-person USOC executive board meets in Colorado Spirngs this weekend to consider the president's request, as expressed in a letter to Kane last Sunday.
The dissenting vote yesterday was cast by Rep. William F. Goodling (R-Pa.), who criticized the House committee several times for acting "too hastily." He recommended postponing action until next Wednesday, after the USOC Executive Board has met.
Kane said several times during his 2 1/2-hour testimony that while he personally could not speak for the Executive Board, he saw "no way that the USOC would reach a decision contrary to that of the president and Congress
Though he expressed misgivings about the wisdom of using the Olympics as a means of retaliation against the Soviets, and said that cancellation or relocation of the games would likely "lead to a counter action against the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles and the end of the modern Olympics as we know them." he assured the committee that "in any deliberations we make, and in any actions we take, the national interest will come first."
Insisting that "athletles on the whole are as patriotic or more patriotic than nonathletes," Kane said that the USOC and the athletes whose interests it represents deplore the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and may well decide that it is proper to decline invitations to the Moscow Games through "proper IOC channels."
He asked that a final decision be delayed as long as possible, however, and repeatedly made a sematic distinction between such nonparticipation" and what he called "a boycott," which he said would be a rejection not in the site of the 1980 games but of the Olympic movement and IOC rules.
Kane and Christopher disagreed sharply during and after their testimony, however, on several critical considerations.
Notable among these were the flexibility of the Feb. 20 deadline set by President Carter for a decision, the support of other nations for the U.S. position and the impact this is likely to have on the IOC, the desirability of the United States "going it alone" in withdrawing from the Games if other nations choose to send their athletes to Moscow, and the feasibility of finding a suitable alternative site for the games this year.
Kane argued that "what the USOC needs is time," and urged that the United States not make an irrevocable decision on nonparicipation in Moscow until May 19, which the USOC says is the date by which it must notify the IOC of the sports in which it intends to enter teams. (Such notification must be received by the IOC, according to its rules, by May 24, eight weeks before the July 19 opening date of the games.)
"The best news I could take to Colorado Springs would be to postpone a decision until May 19. This would give us an opportunity to explore all the options," said Kane, who has agreed to press the casee for relocation of the games to the IOC at a meeting in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Feb. 9, but considers the chances of it being accepted as "very slim because of their attitude so far."
Christopher emphasized the Carter administration's view that "prompt action is necessary" because it would take several months to ready any alternative site or organize alternative games. He later reiterated Carter position that the games should be moved, canceled, postponed, or shunned by the United States unless the Soviets have "fully withdrawn" the troops from Afghanistan by Feb. 20.
"Feb. 20 is the date that we set, that is the date we are working on, and we don't intend to change it," Christopher said after the hearings.
Christopher also reaffirmed the view, expressed by presidential counsel Lloyd Cutler last Sunday, that while the administration does not expect it to be necessary to use them, it has power to prevent American athletes from competing in Moscow even if the USOC decides to send a team.
"We do have various legal powers that could be invoked. They're rather extreme, and I don't think we'll have to invoke those," Christopher told the committee. "I think and expect that if the Soviet troops are still in Afghanistan at the end of February, the USOC and the athletes will agree with the president's position. . . But the legal authority is there, if we wish to take it."
Later Christopher said, "We could deny, under emergency circumstances, the right of people to travel to the Soviet Union. We don't expect it to come to that, but we lack legal authority.