American athletes have been invited to a White House meeting Friday to discuss the Carter administration's call for a U.S. boycott of this summer's Olympic Games in Moscow and plans for possible alternative games.
The athletes say they have been promised they will not merely be briefed on a boycott decision that the administration said is "final and irrevocable." Some athletes say they are prepared to ask blunt questions and present their views.
Despite the administration's opposition to the U.S. participation in the Moscow Games, many athletes -- as well as officials of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) -- remain hopeful that President Carter will change his position if Soviet invaders withdraw from Afghanistan and world tensions are eased before the May 24 entry deadline for the Games.
As many as 100 active and recently retired athletes, including a number currently training for the Moscow Games, have received invitations to Friday's meeting. The 40-member Athletes Advisory Council of the USOC, elected by their fellow athletes, have been invited. The National Governing Bodies of the various Olympic sports have been invited to send representatives, and 10 former Olmpic gold medalists also have received invitations.
"We understand that we will be given an opportunity to ask questions and express views. . . . That is very important that this is not just a showcase for the administration to say, 'This is the way things are,'" said 1976 Olympic rowing bronze medalist Anita De Frantz, a member of the Athletes Advisory Council and the UOSC Administrative Committee. "Since this thing began, most athletes have said, 'Why don't you talk to us?' This is our opportunity."
Administration officials will be asked to explain how a boycott of the Moscow Games is more than a symbolic gesture, especially if it lacks broad international support, De Frantz said.
White House counsel Lloyd Cutler, who is spearheading the White House's boycott campaign, is in Geneva for meetings Monday with officials of about 10 Western and nonaligned nations regarding plans for "alternative games" this summer that the Carter administration hopes will help rally support for boycotting Moscow.
However, USOC officials claim that the administration has "vastly over-estimated" international support for its position, and has recently discovered that it is impossible to organize meaningful international games without the blessing of the international amateur sports establishment.
De Frantz and hurdler-bobsledder Willie Davenport, the two active Olympians in the 21-member USOC Administrative Committee, both said Saturday that America's athletes are lukewarm to the idea of "alternative games" because "there is no substitute for the Olympic Games."
However, the Administrative Committee -- which Saturday approved a confidential resolution recommending that a decision on sending a U.S. team to Moscow be deferred as long as possible -- also gave preliminary approval to the USOC staff to go ahead with planning new national and international competitions in case U.S. athletes ultimately do not go to Moscow.
These plans, to be presented to the national governing bodies of various sports at a meeting here March 29, contain several options. Included are proposals for a national sports festival, for American athletes only, at the same time as the Moscow Games, and an international competition in all the Olympic sports in late August or early September at a single site in the United States or abroad. USOC officials would prefer to stage both meets. u
Any such international competition would be organized by the USOC solely "to provide a meaningful experience for the athletes, including those deprived of the opportunity to compete in the Moscow Games," according to USOC Executive Director F. Don Miller.
These games would have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee and the international sports federations affiliated with it. They would not be billed as "alternative" or "counter Olympics," and "would not in any way be construed as competitive with the Olympic Games," Miller said.
Miller will discuss the USOC plans at a meeting of approximately 15 national Olympic committees in Brussels Saturday. He subsequently plans to meet with Carter administration officials in an effort to persuade them to drop their attempts to organize "alternative games" and instead support whatever option the USOC chooses.