For some, it is a trip down memory lane. For others, it is a reminder of what might have been. For still more of the world's finest track and field athletes, it is an opportunity to mingle with the elite and pick up experience and a few tricks of the trade, with Moscow in 1980 the ultimate goal.
World Cup II begins here in the Olympic Stadium Friday night and, if the absent Sebastian Coe has turned it from the grand finale of the 1979 track season to an anticlimax, the meet still provides a most delicious repast to the track buff in a pre-Olympic year.
The entire meet, all eight-person final events, will be carried live by ABC (WJLA-TV-7) from 9 p.m. to 11 Friday and from 3 p.m. to 5 Saturday and Sunday.
The opening menu features some choice items, with the 400-meter hurdles the house specialty. It matches the world record holder, Edwin Moses, against the only challenger to appear since the 1976 Olympics, Harald Schmid of West Germany. Schmidt won the European Cup in 47.85, just four-tenths of a second off Moses' record, and was the last man to defeat the American, in 1977.
The women's 200 meters Friday sends East German Marita Koch, the world record holder at 21.71, against fast-improving American Evelyn Ashford, European Cup 200 champion Lyudmila Kondratyeva of the Soviet Union, and West German Annegret Richter, the only woman outside Eastern Europe to win an Olympic gold medal in track here in 1976.
Miruts Yifter of Ethiopia, a victim of the 1976 African Olympic boycott, pursues the first half of a possible distance double Friday (in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters), with Craig Virgin, the new 10,000 meter American record holder, providing potent opposition.
The discus matches American Mac Wilkins, the Olympic champion, East German Wolfgang Schmidt, the world record holder, and Norwegian Knut Hjeltnes, who could beat both.
Besides the Africans, who missed the Montreal Olympics because of political manipulation, the Chinese will be appearing in the Olympic Stadium for the first time. In fact, the six representatives from Peking represent the first Chinese trackmen to compete in the Western Hemisphere since 1955.
One Chinese, Zun Zhenxian, is considered a medal threat in Saturday's triple jump, but he conceded that he was just "hoping to watch the others so that I can improve my form."
Among "the others" are Joano Olivera of Brazil, the far-out world record holder; American Willie Banks and Russia's new Saneyev, Genaday Valyukevich.
The men's high jump Saturday is Olympic class, although the world record holder, Soviet Vladimir Yashchenko, is here only as an alternate. Olympic champion Jacek Wszola of Poland, East German Rolf BeilSchmidt and American Franklin Jacobs will battle the man who beat out Yashchenko, Aleksandr Grigoryev.
Sunday's highlight is the women's 400 duel between Olympic queen Irena Szewinska of Poland and Koch, who has lowered the world record to 48.60.
Renaldo Nehemiah of Maryland runs his specialty, the the 110-meter hurdles, Sunday against Cuban Alejandro Casanas, who claimed today to be in "good shape" and "ready to win," and East German Thomas Munkelt.
There are many stars missing, for a variety of reasons -- weariness, indifference, pre-Olympic training schedules or the team-oriented format that calls for one East German, one Soviet, one other European, one American, one other from the Western Hemisphere, one Asian, one African, and one from Down Under.
Coe, Steve Ovett, Eamonn Coghlan, Alberto Juantorena, John Walker, Henry Rono and Natalia Maracescu are absent and the local press has made much of that while blasting the organizers for failing to produce athletes for interviews.
So today dozens of athletes and officials were paraded to a news conference. Alas, interpreters were lacking and such stalwarts as Casanas and Yifter offered mostly shrugged shoulders and closed mouths to questioners.