hree private companies frustrated by congressional delays have pulled out of a plan to market commemorative coins to finance the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee said the companies informed them late today they were dropping out of the scheme that supporters hoped would raise as much as $200 million for the two Olympic groups. The companies--Franklin Mint, Lazard Freres and Occidental Petroleum--told the Olympics officials that recurring congressional delays "raised substantial obstacles to the chances for a successful program" in marketing the 17 different designs of gold or silver coins.
The Senate has passed a bill to allow the two committees and the private coin marketing group each to take one-third of the proceeds from the sale of the coins, which would have been produced by the U.S. Mint. But Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-Ill.), chairman of the House coinage subcommittee, objected that the coins would be too expensive for collectors to buy and could be sold just as well by the government without having private companies drain off a profit.
Peter V. Ueberroth, president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, which has pledged to fund the Olympics without taking tax dollars, said angrily: "The athletes were promised when they capitulated to the 1980 boycott that they would not be forgotten by their government. They have been worse than forgotten, they have been damaged."
Olympic organizers have opposed Annunzio's plan to have the mint strike 50 million silver dollars with an Olympic design and sell them at $20 to $25 apiece, arguing that the mint does not have the marketing skills to pull off such an ambitious program. But a Los Angeles committee spokesman indicated the Annunzio plan may be the only one available now.
Don Miller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, issued a statement referring to Annunzio as the man who "has been able to pigeonhole the legislation designed to help our amatuer athletes prepare for the 1984 Olympic Games." He said his committee would have to reconsider plans to train 25,000 athletes in preparation for the games, cut its sports medicine program and reassess grants to U.S. sports organizations.
The three private companies had agreed to market the coins in denominations from $1 to $100, which would be legal tender but be sold at two or three times their face value. Collectors complained that the cost of a full 17-coin set would range from $2,000 to $5,000.