ONE CAN REGRET and deplore the stories from Moscow of the isolation and intimidation of foreign press and visitors to the Olympic Games and the generally grim spirit that prevails, while realizing that there is nothing in the International Olympic Committee's rules that expressly forbids that kind of thing. Yesterday, however, came the first report of a more explicit violation of the spirit and the letter of international Olympic rules. The West German television network ARD included an interview with Soviet dissidents in a background discussion of the Games, and Soviet authorities pulled the plug, blacking out the broadcast.
As an early step in the competition for the Games, a candidate hot city must fill out an extraordinarily lengthy questionnaire, examining in excruciating detail its ability to provide everything from stadia and practice facilities to adequate "cleaning and security services" for the press. Question 24 of that form asks, "Can the journalists' free movement in the Olympic zone(s) and the free transmission of information be guaranteed?" So that there can be no misunderstanding, Question 1 asks, "Can you guarantee that your government will agree to abide by, as a priority, the IOC Rules and bye-laws? . . . Can you produce evidence to this effect?" And Question 3 poses the clincher, "Are there any laws, regulations or customs that would limit, restrict or interfere with the Games in any way?"
The potential for incidents of press censorship was there from the moment the Games were awarded to Moscow, ensuring an unprecedented deluge of Western journalists into a closed society. Without knowing what the Moscow organizing committee said in answer to Question 3, it is impossible to guess how the IOC reconciled the obvious conflicts between almost every aspect of Soviet society and the spirit of the Olympic Games.
Presumably, though, the IOC anticipated the possibility of objectionable press reports and is prepared to ensure that the Russians at least live up to their commitment to guarantee "free transmission of information." Putting the Games in Moscow ensured that there would be plenty of politics mixed with this summer's athletics. The least the IOC can do at this point is whatever is left in its power to prevent further blatant violations of the commitments made to it by the Soviet government.