In an effort to keep its options open, the administrative committee of the United States Olympic Committee today recommended that the decision on sending an American team to the summer Olympic Games in Moscow be delayed as long as possible.
The 21-member administrative committee, meeting for nearly five hours here today, passed a resolution recommending that the decision be based on world conditions in mid-May. The deadline for filing entries to the Moscow Games is May 24.
The text of today's resolution was n ot made public, but will be presented to the 482-member House of Delegates, the USO's policy-making body when it meets here April 11-13.
USOC President Robert J. Kane said the resolution was "in effect a recommendation to the House of Delegates from the administrative committee," which supervises the day-to-day conduct of the organization.
Administrative committee members said privately that the resolution urged the House of Delegates to make any decision on U.S. participation in Moscow conditional on world conditions at the time entries are due. The House of Delegates likely will empower either the administrative committee or USOC officers to make the decision on Moscow participation, reliable USOC sources said.
Kane and USOC Executive Director F. Don Miller reiterated their hope that a withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan over the next two months, and a consequent easing of world tensions, would cause a swing in U.S. public opinion and prompt the Carter administration to reconsider its hard-line opposition to American participation in the Moscow Games.
The administration said on Feb. 20 that President Carter had made a "final and irrevocable" decision against U.S. participation in the Moscow Games because Soviet troops had not been withdrawn from Afghanistan by that date, which he set as a deadline.
On Feb. 14, during the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, the USOC issued a statement saying it would "accept any decision concerning our participation in the Games the president makes in view of his analysis of what is best for the country." However, it deferred formal action until the April meeting of the House of Delegates.
White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler said on Feb. 20 that the administration had asked the USOC to "act promptly to decline the invitation to Moscow," but was willing to wait until April 11 for a decision.
"We are satisfied with their statement of Feb. 14 that they will, of course, comply with the president's request," said Cutler, who is in Geneva for meetings on Monday and Tuesday with officials of Western European countries that the United States is trying to persuade to join a Moscow boycott.
Kane said today that "there is nothing in this resolution that is incconsistent with the stances we have taken previously, relative to participation in the Moscow games," but he characterized it as an attempt to buy more time.
Kane said it was "unfortunate" that the administration had described its position as irrevocable. "Nothing is irrevocable," he said, "except to the foolish and the dead."
The USOC today released the results of a telephone poll of 530 persons conducted March 3-6 by the Roper Organization, a pollster group headquartered in New York. It concluded that a majority of Americans think that President Carter should reconsider his opposition to U.S. participation in Moscow if Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan.
The poll indicated that 60 percent of those questioned think that the president should reconsider his position if Soviet troops withdraw, and 34 percent think he should not. If the president reiterates his decision that the United States should not participate under any circumstances, 45 percent of those polled said U.S. athletes should go to Moscow and 47 percent said they should not.
"We are very sensitive to public opinion," said Miller. He said that his mail, which was running 75 to 25 percent in favor of a boycott of the Moscow Games before last month's Winter Games, is now 60 to 40 against a boycott.
"If such a change in public opinion were to manifest itself nationally, I'm quite certain that the administration would reconsider its position," Miller said.
Miller will represent the USOC at a meeting of approximately 15 national Olympic committees in Brussels on March 22. "My impression is that none of them will make a decision about going to Moscow much before the May 24 deadline," he said.
Today's administrative committee meeting also gave preliminary approval to contingency plans being formulated by the USOC staff for special games to be conducted if American athletes do not participate in the Moscow Olympics.
These plans call for a National Sports Festival for American athletes only during the time of the Moscow games, and international competition, with all countries invited, after the Olympic Games, probably in late August or early September.