Let there be no mistake about it, the Soviet Union has every intention of being proud of the way it handles the 1980 Olympic Games.
For all their understandable grumbling and concern expressed lately in the West about the high price of television rights, the possible intrusion of politics into the reception of teams from places like Israel and Taiwan and the potential shortages of space for visitors, the fact remains that the Soviets seem determined to put on a top-notch show.
Hosting the Olympics is considered here as a "welcome recognition of the Soviet Union's notable contribution to the promotion of peace and international friendship," in the words of Vladimir Promyslov, Moscow's mayor and vice president of the Soviet organizing committee. That recognition is unlikely to be squandered.
Based on present plans, facilities and accomodations will be functional rather than spectacular. The high cost of construction and the difficulty of coming to terms with foreign contractors has led to a scaling down of some ambitious early projections without, however, any indication that the games will suffer as a result.
The original Olympic Village for instance, has been revised from an architecturally bold concept of soaring towers to a standard Soviet-style housing project consisting of 16-story apartment blocks with shops, a large restaurant, a theater and other usual amenities. As soon as the games are over, the premises are to be turned over to ordinary Soviets as living quarters.
Such practicality is to be the rule (and judging from Montreal's troubles in cost overruns and designing hangups it is probably not a bad one.) "We shall build only that which is most essential and will be used afterward by the Soviet peoples for many years," said Alexander Gresko, secretary general of the Olympic organizing committee.
However, existing facilities will be spruced up, particularly the 20-year-old Luzhniki complex on the Moscow River that has a 103,000-seat stadium (where opening and closing ceremonies will take place), a sports arena, a smaller stadium and an open-air swimming pool.
Altogether, there are 11 new installations being built in Moscow, plus a yacht basin at Tallinn on the Baltic Sea. About 200 million rubles (around 250 million) have been incorporated into the country's five-year plan for Olympic projects.
Although Soviet construction often runs behind schedule in normal building, the whole massive Luzhniki complex was completed in less than a year to handle the 1957 Communist World Youth Festival. It is a fair bet that every construction scaffold will be down by July 19, 1980, the day the Olympic flame is lit in Moscow.
As for general organization, the Soviets have plenty of experience in orchestrating big sports events. During the summer of 1974 in Alma-Ata, capital of Soviet Kazakhstan, 5,000 teen-age athletes competed in a country-wide Sportikiad, training ground for many Soviet Olympic champions. The affair went off with impressive smoothness and there seems no reason to believe that efficiency won't prevail at the Olympic Games with so many resources devoted to them.
All that is the good news.
But even the not-so-good news is only vaguely disturbing at this stage. Originally, the Soviets said they would be putting up a score of new hotels to handle the influx of tourists. Many of these were to be the work of financing and management proved hard to settle and only one 25-story luxury hotel with 3,642 beds is being constructed by outsiders - a French firm with Yugoslav labor.
The Soviets are themselves putting up a 10,000-bed complex of hotels in Izmailova, about a half-hour subwayride from the main stadium at Luzhniki. But that still works out to be less than half the 30,000 to 40,000 additional places that the Soviets originally said would be provided. Student hostels and what one Olympics official called "makeshift accomodation" will be used, plus camping sites and whatever else can be arranged in the Moscow vicinity. Space promises to be tight.
A maximum of 300,000 foreign tourists will be able to attend the games, according to the latest Soviet estimate, which the Soviets say is not very different from the figures in Montreal and Munich.
Official are not actually saying so yet, but Israelis, Taiwanese and other peoples whose countries do not have relations with Moscow probably will not get visas as tourists, even though the Soviets have pledged repeatedly that athletes from all teams accredited by the International Olympics Committee will be allowed to compete, including those on the outs with the Kremlin.
On the matter of television rights, the Soviets have bristled at the suggestion that they were trying to extort money from U.S. networks. NBC announced yesterday that it had bought the rights, and it was understood that the price could be as much as $100 million.
The cost would be high, the Soviets said, because their television system is not readily adaptable to the one in the Unites States and because of the distance between the two countries.
But the Soviets always expected the contrast to be concluded amicably. "Do not underestimate our high sense of responsibility about these games,' the Soviets tell their Western interlocutors. Or, put another way, it is worth remmebering that the Olympic games are a big deal here.