The West German government announced yesterday that it would recommend that the country's Olympic committee vote to boycott the Moscow Summer Games as long as Soviet troops remain in Afghanistan.
Government spokesman Klaus Boelling said "numerous other European nations" were leaning toward a boycott following the U.S. Olympic Committee's decision last weekend to keep American athletes out of Moscow, according to news service dispatches from Bonn.
The West German committee meets May 15 in Duesseldorf to decide whether to accept its invitation to the Games. Committee leaders, particularly President Willi Daume, and most West German sports federations deeply oppose a boycott, and there was no guarantee that the committee would follow the government's decision.
Nevertheless, the West German committee has been on record as saying it would not act contrary to its government's wishes.
A West German decision to boycott is widely viewed as critical in determining how other West European nations will solve the boycott question.
Maurice Herzog, one of France's two members of the International Olympic Committee, said the Bonn government's position and what he called "inadmissible" U.S. government pressure on the U.S. Olympic Committee caused him to be pessimistic about French participation.
"If West Germany refuses to go, France's position will be delicate," Herzog said. "If there are only socialist countries in Moscow, I don't see any interest for France to go there. I say this though I personally am in favor of attending."
West European nations such as France, West Germany and Britain, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan are considered essential to the ultimate success or failure of the U.S. led boycott movement.
Besides the West German decision, there were other indications yesterday that the boycott drive, which appeared in serious trouble until the 1,604-to-797 U.S. Olympic Committee vote Saturday, was regaining at least some momentum.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was quoted by the Associated Press as saying he was "very pleased" by the 2-1 margin of the USOC vote.
"I believe now that an effective boycott will emerge," Fraser said, urging his country's Olympic committee to follow the American's lead.
The president of Japan's committee, Katsuji Shibata, said, "It is apparent that the USOC decision will have a serious effect on us, serious enough to influence our position."
The U.S. allies are far from reaching a unified stand on the boycott issue, however, and several governments -- notably France -- have limited their public stand to saying the decision must be made by the ruling Olympic bodies in their countries. Most Olympic committees, stressing the need to "keep politics out of international sports," have resisted the boycott drive.
The presidents of the Belgian and Italian Olympic committees were quoted yesterday as saying they were still in favor of participation in the Games, but that it was important that the European allies forge a common stand on the issue -- something that would seem to make the Bonn statement yesterday loom yet larger.
In Toronto, Dick Pound, president of the Canadian Olympic Association, said that in view of the USOC decision, he felt Canada "will not have much alternative but to support the boycott," UPI reported.
In a related development, AP quoted network sources as saying NBC-TV will not broadcast the Moscow Games, but that an official announcement would not be made until NBC has satisfied an insurance commitment and can recover about $57 million, or the 90 percent of its payment to the Soviet organizing committee that is recoverable, according to the terms of a policy the network filed with Lloyd's of London.