In a series of dramatic, last-minute developments, Congress passed a landmark sports bill yesterday and, in a separate action, provided $16 million for the U.S. Olympic Committee to implement reforms in the U.S. Olympic movement.
At 5 a.m. yesterday, the Senate passed the Amateur Sports Acts of 1978, from which the House on Saturday morning had eliminated $30 million in federal aid. The $16 million, however, was contained in an omnibus continuing appropriations resolution that passed the Senate at 3 a.m. and the House at 1:30 p.m.
The bills now go to President CarterM who is expected to sign both.
The long-awaited Amateur Sports Bill of 1978 is designed to end the jurisdictional battles waged for 50 years among amateur sports groups that hampered U.S. participation in international competition.
The Senate, as expected, passed the moneyless House-approved version of the bill that contained some relatively minor changes from the original Senate bill on the general framework for the USOC reorganization.
But proponents of the legislation scored a major coup with the restoration of some money to help carry out that reorganization and to establish national training centers and sports medicine programs.
On Saturday, supporters of the $30 million federal aid were caught off guard waiting to attack an amendment that would have restricted the money's use to the centers and sports medicine.
USOC officials had said that the money, which is to be a one-time grant, was crucial to the USOC's successful reorganization since the bulk of it was to be used to develop national governing groups for 32 Olympic and Pan American sports.
The aid, the USOC said, would enable those organizations to become self-incorporated and antonomous in governing their sports and allow them to develop broad-based programs for all sectors of the population.
Don Miller, USOC executive director, was jubliant with the outcome yesterday.
"Congress should be commended for reacting to the needs of amateur athletics and athletes in the United States," he said. "I believe this will serve as a catalyt to motivate everyone to benefit the amateur sports community in the country."
The restoration of the money was carefully engineered by Sen. ed Stevens (R-Alaska) in what one observer described as "a textbook case on civics."
Stevens, who chaired the Senate hearings on the bill and has worked hard for its passage, persuaded the Senate to include the compromise $16 million sum in a continuing appropriations resolution. He also tightened the language on how the money could be spent to appease. House opponents of the funds.
When the resolution came up before the House with the blessing of Sepaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill (D-Mass.), Rep. Robert Michel (R'Ill.), one of the sponsors of the bill, made an impassioned plea for its passage.
Michel, who with other congressmen lobbied vigorously for the second chance at some money, reminded the money's foes of his financial watchdog amendment covering its use.
The resolution passed unanimously on a voice vote.