The South African rugby team Springboks arrived quietly in Chicago yesterday to begin a controversial two-week, three-game U.S. tour that has brought denunciations from organizations objecting to that nation's system of racial apartheid.
The group of 36 players, coaches and managers landed at O'Hare International Airport before 7 a.m., avoiding demonstrators who planned to protest their arrival. They were met by a small group of well-wishers, reporters and photographers.
The Springboks have games scheduled against American teams Saturday in the Chicago area, Tuesday in Albany, N.Y., and the following Saturday against an American all-star team "somewhere in the Northeast." Groups opposing the tour have announced plans to demonstrate at the matches, so only the site of the match in Albany has been announced.
Chicago's City Council, acting on a resolution introduced by Mayor Jane Byrne, voted unanimously yesterday to denounce the team visit.
The arrival in the United States came at the end of a tour of New Zealand that ended in fierce rioting at a match Saturday that left 43 people injured and 148 arrested.
The U.S. tour has drawn international attention, and the Soviet Union reportedly plans to ask that the 1984 Summer Olympics be moved from Los Angeles if the games are played.
In Moscow last night, Tass news agency said Springboks' welcome in the United States will encourage South Africa to strengthen racial bias in sports and "is incompatible with the Olympic principles."
Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, said the "IOC is against this tour, against any games involving the Springboks abroad."
U.S. Olympic officials say they have done everything possible to discourage the Springbok tour but say they are powerless to stop it because rugby is not an Olympic sport and the tour was privately arranged.