Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance tonight forcefully presented to the International Olympic Committee the United States' position that the Summer Games should be moved from Moscow, postponed or canceled if Soviet troops are not removed from Afghanistan by Feb. 20.
"Beyond the effects of this decision on efforts for international peace, we should be concerned about its consequences for the Olympic movement," Vance said.
In his speech formally opening the IOC's 82nd session, which will continue through Tuesday and could reconvene at the close of the Winter Olympics here Feb. 24, Vance said that under current circumstances the U.S. government considers Moscow an unsuitable site for a sports festival dedicated to peace.
The United States will oppose participation by its athletes if the Games are not moved, Vance said.
His speech followed a stormy meeting Thursday night at which a White House aide angrily vowed the United States would destroy the Olympic movement if the IOC did not agree to adopt the U.S. position.
On Friday, White House deputy counsel Joseph Onek retracted his threat and apologized to U.S. Olympic Committee President Robert J. Kane.
"I don't think I ever said that," Onek said when asked for comment tonight. "It was a misunderstanding that was totally clarified the next day. If I said anything like that, it was because it was late and we had just stepped off a plane and were tired.
"I didn't intend to make any kind of threat. The administration has made it clear that it whole-heartedly supports the Olympic movement and does not want to see it harmed," Onek said.
Vance told the IOC that "the preferable course would be to transfer the Games from Moscow to another site or multiple sites. Clearly there are practical difficulties, but they could be overcome. There is also precedent for canceling the Games. Or it would be possible with a simple change of rules, to postpone the Games for a year or more."
"Let me make my government's position clear: we will oppose the participation of an American team in any Olympic Games in the capital of an invading nation. This position is firm. It reflects the deep convictions of the United States Congress and the American people.
"To avoid such problems in the future, we support the establishment of permanent homes for the Summer and Winter Olympics."
Vance, presenting President Carter at the usually ceremonial opening of the IOC session, called Soviet aggression "a serious threat to peace which raises an issue of fundamental importance to the Olympic movement."
Noting that doves are released at the opening of the Games to sympolize peace, Vance said that "in the view of my government, it would be a violation of this fundamental Olympic principle to conduct or attend Olympic Games in a nation which is currently engaging in an aggressive war and has refused to comply with the world community's demand to halt its aggression and withdraw its forces."
Killanin pointed out in introductory remarks, however, that when the Games were awarded to Moscow in 1974 the decision was "welcomed as a symbol of mutual understanding."
"Sadly, the current political situation is different today, but the IOC entered into agreements in 1974 which must be honored by us all," Killanin said. "Solutions to the political problems of the world are not the responsibility of sporting bodies such as the IOC, but of the appropriate governmental organization."
Killanin received enthusiastic applause after his remarks.Vance's speech received only scattered applause.
"Throughout the world, there is broad and growing opposition, among governments and people, to going forward with the Games as planned, as if nothing has happened," Vance said. "To do so would imperil the broad popular interest and support upon which this and future Olympics depend."
"Responsibility for this matter should not be shifted to the athletes. That would only force them to carry a burden which porperly belongs to the leader of the Olympic movement. None of us wants our athletes to suffer. But neither should we let them be exploited" Vance said.
Pointing out that the United States welcomes all teams invited by the IOC to the Winter Games, Vance said the issue was not "whether a national team should be barred from competing on political grounds," but rather "whether the Games should be held in a country which is itself committing a serious breach of international peace."
He said that the Soviet Union has described its selection to host this summer's Games as "recognition of 'the correctness of its foreign political course' and its 'enormous services . . . in the struggle for peace,'" Vance said that holding the Games in the Soviet Union as scheduled would "lend the Olympic mantle to that nation's actions."
Under the circumstances, he said, holding the Games in Moscow would jeopardize the future of the Olympic movement.
"The United States deeply values the Olympic Games and the principles on which they rest. We are immensely proud of our own athletes and those of other nations who have trained long and hard. We do not want to see the Olympic movement damaged," Vance said.
World of the acrimonious meeting -- which ended with Kane "absolutely livid," according to one source -- quickly reached other members of the Usoc Executive Board, reportedly leaving several resentful of what they see as strongarm tactics by the Carter administration.
"I didn't sit in on the meeting" that Onek, White House counsel Lloyd Cutler and other administration officials had with USOC officials Thursday, "but I understand it was extremely rough," said Douglas F. Roby, a former president of the USOC and one of two Americans on the 89-member IOC.
"I've gotten this secondhand, but I understand it was almost outrageous -- the administration implying it was going to destroy the IOC if it didn't completely capitulate. That was the inference.
Some USOC members openly doubted the sincerity of the administration's commitment to the Olympic movement in the aftermath on Thursday night's meeting. But Kane made it clear today that the USOC shares the administration's view of the gravity of the Afghanistan invasion.
"We had eight hours of discussion at our executive board meeting in Colorado Springs [last month] and we think it's not the proper atmosphere for the Games when the Soviets are plundering and killing people," Kane said.
Kane said he made the same point in a meeting Friday with Ignati T. Novikov, chairman of the Moscow Olympic Organizing Committee and a high ranking Soviet official.
"It was a very friendly and congenial meeting," Kane said "Mr. Novikov wants desperately to have the U.S. participate in the Games. I suggested to him that it was up to them to do something and bring about conditions which would enable us to participate, and that since he is the third deputy premier of the Soviet Union, he was in a position to do something.
"What will come of it, I don't know. He didn't give any indication. But I think he knows now, if he didn't before, that this not just a political thing, instigated by President Carter. We believe in it deeply as well."
Kane denied statement attributed to him that the Carter administration was being "heavy handed" in sending Vance to make an appeal to the IOC.
"I said I hope they don't take a heavy-handed approach at the opening of the session, because I don't think that's the occasion for it," said Kane, who presented a strong statement to the IOC Executive Board Friday and will repeat it for the full IOC Monday.