In the middle of the Olympic Games, live from Moscow, there was French Communist Party leader Georges Marchais once again explaining to the French public why the Soviet Olympics are better than any previous captialist Olympics.
"The French bourgeoisie," he said, "likes youth. But it likes youth dripping with blood, that is to say in clashes and wars to defend class privileges." At the Moscow Games is youth "at the sports stadiums, that wants to love, to learn, to have a craft, to have work and to enjoy sports."
As with almost everything else surrounding the Games, Marchais' statement from Moscow's Lenin Stadium led to lively polemics in the French press. The French Communist Party newspaper L'Humanite did not report Marchais' provocative words as he delivered them. When other pages did, L'Humanite in effect revealed the existence of the internal party debate by saying it was not the paper that had edited the statements heard by millions of French citizens but the party leader's own entourage.
One of the key Marchais comments that L'Humanite had not published was his attack on the French journalists who have been "prostituting themselves" during the Games by reporting about such things as the security at the Olympic village that made it very hard for the press to work, general conditions in the Soviet Union and such incidents as the brutality of Soviet secret service officers toward French and other reporters trying to cover the demonstration in Red Square by an Italian homosexual -- a brutality so strong that it elicited an official protest from the French Embassy.
The French press devoted at least as much space to the Moscow Games as to previous Olympics. Much stress has been laid on French medal winners, each treated with evident pride as front-page news. Also great stress was placed on the numbers of records broken to demonstrate that the French medals are not in the frequently heard phrase, "chocolate candy medals wrapped in tin foil."
In contrast to the heavy press coverage, the state-controlled television has given the Games greatly reduced time, compared with previous Olympiads.
The split reaction in France was exemplified by the experience of a Polish exile trying to distribute T-shirts showing the five Olympic rings as the tread wheels of a Soviet tank. The Pole, who preferred to remain anonymous, made the rounds of leading sports shops and department stores to place 1,200 shirts.
"But," he complained in an interview, "after ordering the shirts, the department stores canceled their orders. The boutiques won't display them. I'm sick of the hyprocrisy of the French."
The sidewalk in front of one store that displayed the shirt was painted in huge orange letters. "Yes to the Olympic Games -- French Communist Party."