The executive board of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) today voted unanimously to present to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Carter's request that the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow be moved, postponed or canceled in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
But the USOC, in what it characterized as an "effort to buy time," deferred action on the president's further request that Americans not participate in the Moscow Games unless Soviet troops are fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by Feb. 20.
The USOC resolution, hammered out after nearly eight hours of discussion in closed session, called for a decision on American participation "subsequent to action by the IOC on the U.S. proposal."
USOC officials have been granted a meeting with IOC President Lord Killanin at Lake Placid, N.Y., Feb. 9. The IOC will begin three days of meetings there Feb. 10, just before the start of the Winter Olympics.
Once the IOC acts, the USOC will reconvene its executive board to "consider appropriate action to be taken . . . under such circumstances as may exist at that time."
In the meantime, the USOC "shall continue to select and prepare the United States Olympic team, whether or not the United States competes in the Summer Olympic Games of 1980, in order to recognize the athletes who have been training as Olympians," the resolution said.
The USOC's one-page resolution, a fusion of five that were offered and debated, was passed by a 68 to 0 vote. Eighteen voting members of the executive board were absent, many of them stranded on the way to Colorado Springs by a blizzard.
Jospeh Onek, deputy counsel to the president, said after the vote that "the USOC has taken the very, very important step of deciding to ask the IOC to transfer, postpone or cancel the Moscow Games . . . The president did not call on them to go further than that step at this time."
USOC president Robert J. Kane made it clear that, if the IOC does not relocate the Games, he would like to delay a decision on American participation until as close as possible to the May 24 deadline for accepting the IOC invitation to the Games.
Onek, however, indicated that the White House probably would ask the USOC to make a decision soon after the Feb. 20 deadline set by the president for Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The USOC said that it had little hope of persuading the IOC to transfer, postpone or cancel the Moscow Games because the Soviet organizers technically had not broken any IOC rules.
But earlier in the day, presidential counsel Lloyd Cutler outlined a possible line of argument for stripping Moscow of the Games.
Citing an offical Communist Party booklet circulating in Moscow that describes how the Olympic Games can be used for political advantage, Cutler suggested that the Soviet Union has violated IOC rules against political exploitation of the Games.
"I am certainly no expert on the IOC rules, but the IOC instructions prohibit nations from trying to reap political advantages from the Games," Cutler told reporters after presenting the president's position to the executive board and fielding question in what he characterized as "a good, brisk, give-and-take discission."
The pamphlet circulating in the Soviet Union, he said, says that the selection of Moscow for 1980 was a recognition not only of the validity of socialist principles, but also of the foreign policy of the Soviet Union and the contribution the Soviet Union is making to world peace.
The pamphlet to which he referred is a paperback, entitled "Little Book for the Party Activist," written by senior party theorists for newly elected party activists in factories, collective farms and institutes across the Soviet Union.
The revised edition of the book includes a 13-page section on the Olympics, justifying the massive expenditures of money and manpower required to host the Games in Moscow. Parts of this insert were quoted extensively in last Sunday's editions of The Washington Post.
"The acute ideological struggle between the two opposed social systems [capitalism and socialism] . . . directly affects the choice of cities for the Olympic Games, the competition programs, reporting of the preparations and the conduct of the Games," according to the book, which makes clear in flamboyant rhetoric the political terms in which the Kremlin has always regarded the Games.
Cutler appeared to suggest that, given Lord Killanin's insistence that it is "legally and technically impossible to move the Games," postponement might be the most viable of the options suggested by President Carter.
"We think we ought to leave this range of choices to the USOC, other national committees and the IOC, who are much more familiar with the practical and logistic and internal legal problems than we are," the White House counsel said.
Edward G. Williams, a member of the executive board and chairman of the USOC's Athletes' Advisory Council, said yesterday: "Maybe I'm just terribly naive, but the prospect of postponing the Games for one year sounds awfully attractive to me. What if they said to Moscow, 'Look, you've still got the Games, just delay it one year.'"
The Athletes' Advisory Council, made up of active or recently reired athletes in all Olympic and Pan American Games sports, voted 30 to 12 in favor of sending a team to Moscow, a position communicated to the USOC executive board today.
Kane remained pessimistic about dissuading the IOC from its hardline position that the Games will go on as scheduled in Moscow July 19 through Aug. 3.
His chief hope for salvaging U.S. participation this summer, he said, lies in putting off the decision to accept or decline the invitation to compete until as close to the May 24 deadline as possible, in the hope that "circumstances will change for the better."
There appears little doubt that the USOC ultimately will go along with the president's request not to send Americans to Moscow if Soviet invasion forces remain in Afghanistan. Realistically, the organization has too much at stake to buck the majority opinion of the American public, which finances it through contributions, or Congress and the administration, which gave the USOC umbrella authority over amateur sports in the United States by enacting the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.
Cutler cited opinion polls and a 386-to-12 vote in the U.S. House last week in support of Carter's position on the Olympics as persuasive forces that will preclude the need for the president to turn his request to the USOC into an order.
"We do not think the need is going to arise to consider further measures of a compulsive character, because you have only to look at that vote of 386-12 to see what the Congress might wish to do should it become necessary." Cutler said in what was widely viewed as a thinly veiled threat.
Kane said the USOC was "not surprised that the American public is outraged" by the invasion of Afghanistan, but that he still has misgivings about use of the Olympics as a tool for reprisal.
"The question we have . . . is whether the Olympic movement and the United States Olympic athlete are the kind of weapon you use with the big bear -- a weapon that is made of flesh and blood, flesh and blood of our athletes," Kane said.
He reiterated fears that American confrontation in Moscow could lead to Eastern bloc countermeasures against the 1984 Los Angeles Games and kill the Olympics, but Cutler suggested that American participation this year might be more destructive.
"The notion that we would all troop to Moscow as if there had been no invasion, as if there had been no 104-18 vote condemning Soviet agression in the United Nations, and pay homage in this great worldwide tribute to the Soviet state, is something I think could very well wreck the Olympic movement," Cutler said.
Onek said he expects the USOC "to press the case hard" before the IOC and "I think they're going to get a lot of support from other countries who want the Olympics moved from Moscow . . . I think you're going to see a groundswell of support."
[Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark tonight expressed a position similar to President Carter's, and Canada would not send a team to Moscow if Soviet troops remain in Afghanistan beyond Feb. 20, United Press International reported.]
Cutler said that although few national Olympic committees have voiced a willingness to join the United States in shunning the Moscow Games, "there are some 30 nations that have indicated to us -- at the government level, of course -- that they will support our proposals. there are only a handful that have said they will not. The rest are still examining the matter."
Cutler named as in accord with President Carter the governments of Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia "and a very sizable number of Third World countries, many of them of the Muslim faith." He added that "public opinion throughout the world has grown to support the view that Moscow is just not a fit place to hold the games this year."